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Jackie Watt--40 years of service to Big Walnut!

Forty years ago, Jackie Watt babysat for school teachers. She wanted a job that allowed her to be home with her children during the summer. Someone suggested driving a school bus. She’d be paid a salary all year and have benefits. Mrs. Watt applied at Big Walnut School District and was hired. Although her husband thinks she’ll change her mind, she plans to make this school year the last she drives a BW school bus. Why has she stayed this long? She loves the kids! They make her smile. Although she started her career driving a regular route, she now drives a wheelchair accessible bus. As she shows off the new one she got last week, she brags about the students who ride with her and how they won’t let anything stop them. It's evident that Miss Jackie, as the kids call her, is more interested in her passengers than her new bus. Pointing to where one sits, she shares, “They are learning," and one "Made the honor roll!”She says the parents of “her” kids are wonderful. They are engaged.

How has driving the bus changed over 40 years? Watt says that for awhile high school students weren’t bused, but that didn’t go over very well. Another time, the district stopped busing within a mile and then two miles. With no sidewalks at some of the school areas neither option worked. Personnel have changed: superintendents, supervisors, principals, drivers, custodians, and maintenance workers. People come and go. Watt has outlasted everyone. She used to park her bus at home, but no more. Even though there are radios in all the buses, and most everyone has a cell phone, communication isn’t as good as it used to be. Buses no longer provide transportation to Marburn Academy, The School for the Blind, or the School for the Deaf. However, the salary she made when she started is no longer $5.25 an hour.

In addition to driving an accessible bus, Mrs. Watt also drives a bus for sporting events, field trips, and competitions. This fall, she drove the football team to the Franklin game. As she pulled into the stadium, the bus lost power. Her day normally begins at 6:00 in the morning, but that day didn’t end until she arrived back in Sunbury at 1:30 the next morning.

Does Miss Jackie feel as if she ever made a difference in a child’s life? She tells about a student she drove to the School for the Deaf. An overloaded clothes dryer in their home caught fire, and the family lost everything. Watt gathered furniture for them. They visited her in her home. The boy is now a man, and Miss Jackie still sends him a birthday card. Don’t mistake Watt for a pushover. She’d just as soon tell a coach to watch his language as an athlete. No passenger on her bus is trashing it. Her job is driving the bus. When she takes a team somewhere, she expects the coaches to control them. Jackie Watt is a treasure. Thank you for your service and have a well deserved and happy retirement!


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