Bus #1: Two drivers named best in the state

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Two school bus drivers from Shelby County have been named the best in the state, and with the many narrow roads and hairpin turns they must negotiate, they don't take the honor lightly.

The Kentucky Association of Pupil Transportation named Rev. Robert Marshall as the state's School Bus Driver of the Year and Phil Morgan as the state's Special Needs Driver of the Year.

George Blakeman, transportation coordinator for the district, nominated them for the awards and said both men are great at what they do. They were chosen from similar nominations from all other districts.

Marshall and Morgan have a combined 67 years driving the big yellow buses in Shelby County, and district personnel are calling the awards a fitting designation for the two men's years of service.

Superintendent James Neihof said Marshall and Morgan are an asset to the district.

"For two of our drivers to receive state recognition simply supports my belief that Shelby County has one of the best transportation departments in the state," Neihof said in a statement. "Each driver takes his/her role seriously but, more importantly, with compassion for the students who they consider as precious cargo."

Marshall and Morgan said receiving the award was an honor.

Marshall, 67 of Shelbyville has been driving a bus for 36 years, and he said what he enjoys about the job the most is the daily interaction with the students.

"It's the kids that keeps me here," he said. "Building a relationship with them and their families."

For 29 years of the years he has been a driver, Marshall also has been the minister of a Methodist congregation in Shelbyville. He said he took the job when former Assistant Superintendent William Jesse Lacefield approached him about filling a vacancy.

Shawn Bruce, a third grader at Wright Elementary School, said he is glad to have Marshall as his bus driver.

"He makes us feel safe," he said. "I love this bus."

On Morgan's bus on Tuesday morning, many of his passengers said they felt safe - and for good reason.

Morgan, 65, a resident of east Shelby County, has been driving a bus for 31 years and has not had an accident since the first day he turned over one of those large diesel engines.

He said the secret to being accident free is using your mirrors and "giving the other driver the right of way as often as they want it."

Morgan started driving while teaching science at East Middle School. "They were short on drivers and asked me to help," he said.

He worked both jobs for 17 years.

When Morgan retired after 29 years teaching, he became the bus driver trainer for the district.

"I enjoy kids and trying to make a difference in their lives," he said.

Morgan has been behind the wheel of a special-needs bus for nine years. He described the job as having to "be very flexible and expect the unexpected."