President Jimmy Carter was in the White House when Dianne Murphy first climbed into the driver’s seat of a Hamilton Schools bus.
More than 1 million miles and 42 years later Murphy is still behind the wheel, transporting and protecting the latest batch of thousands of Hamilton students as she has for decades.
The smallish Murphy – whose student-given nickname is “Smurf” since the TV cartoon show involving diminutive characters in the 1980s – said she stayed as a school bus driver because the job entails so much more than just driving a bus.
“I love to drive and I love kids,” said the 73-year-old, long-time Hamilton resident who started driving in 1976.
She is the longest, tenured staffer in Hamilton Schools.
Her favorite passengers are special needs students, which she has driven in recent years.
“Kids are honest and they keep you grounded,” said Murphy.
The changes sweeping through America since 1976 have manifested themselves through the schools and through school transportation. Buses are safer, easier to drive and inspected much more often as required under state regulations.
“Now they are inspected all the time. One little light out and you’re off the road. We safety check our buses every day,” she said.
“I never dreamt I’d still be doing this but those darn kids I just can’t leave them. And I don’t want to hang around with old people and feel old,” said Murphy.
“One of the boys described me as 21 years old with 52 years of experience,” she said smiling.
Murphy’s boss hopes she stays behind the wheel.
“Dianne Murphy has been a dedicated school bus driver for more than 40 years,” said Becky Goosey, director of transportation for the 10,000-student Hamilton Schools.
“She has chosen to transport severely handicapped students, driven several generations, and endeared herself to thousands of families over the years. Dianne is also known for her ability to connect and understand her students in order to provide safe and reliable transportation for each one,” said Goosey.
Hamilton City Schools transports approximately 4,600 students every day to and from school.
“Dianne attains perfect attendance year after year, which is important for her students who require consistent and reliable routines,” said Goosey.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent said Murphy’s 42-year run, which is the longest employment stretch for any city schools employees, represents the value of having experienced staffers working with students.
“Long time or veteran employees … are truly an asset to the district that many times are very difficult to replace when they retire or leave for whatever reason. Job knowledge, experience on the job and the history of how positions have developed and progressed are all things that can make a big difference in someone doing a job well or just getting the job done,” said Larry Knapp.
“A lot of times when students get on the bus they hug me. How can I leave that?” Murphy said.