Each year, the West Virginia Board of Education recognizes outstanding school service personnel employees such as aides, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers and office workers for their contributions to their schools and communities. They are nominated by their colleagues in all 55 counties.
This year’s top award went to Debra Martin, a school secretary in Putnam County.
Bussard, 46, of Bakerton, W.Va., has worked for the Jefferson County Transportation Department for 25 years. He is the chief mechanic in the division that maintains the district’s fleet of 116 school buses plus other vehicles.
Eight other mechanics work in the shop.
Bussard was honored locally at a banquet in April. He will travel to Charleston, W.Va., to be recognized at the West Virginia Board of Education’s July 11 meeting.
According to Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Susan Wall, the choice between Martin and Bussard “was close. I was told that it was a very difficult decision. Richard is deserving of the award. He works very hard. This is the first time one of our service personnel employees won this award.”
Bussard has been nominated for the award four times.
“I never got it before this,” he said.
“When you evaluate his ethics and performance, you witness an individual who strives professionally and personally in every way,” Bob Boylan, director of transportation, said of Bussard and his attitude at work. “He seeks educational and professional advancement. You don’t find people like him anymore.”
An incident five years ago exemplifies Bussard’s devotion to his duties. A school bus taking T.A. Lowery Elementary School students to school caught fire when an oil line broke in the engine compartment. The incident occurred within a half-mile of the transportation department’s garage in Shenandoah Junction where Bussard was working.
He ran to the burning bus, rushed in to help the students get out safely, then crawled on his hands and knees checking under the seats to make sure there were no students hiding there in fear.
The fire destroyed the bus.
Bussard said he likes his job, “because it’s something I can do.”
He and his wife, Tracey, have two children, Kayla, 15, and Richard III, 7.
Bussard lamented the fact that his father, Richard Bussard Sr., who died two years ago, was not around to see his son recognized.