- Pennell Elementary School
Al Groer wants you to follow him
For Penn-Delco Transportation Supervisor Al Groer, the task of keeping our students moving is a numbers game which he easily ticks off in conversation. Groer has been overseeing the transportation of Penn-Delco School District students for nearly 15 years. He currently has 73 employees including drivers, aides, mechanics, and an assistant. Penn-Delco vehicles move nearly 2700 students daily to over 70 schools in the area. "And that does not include those who attend our Today's Child Program and get bused from one school to the next," added Groer. That equates to nearly 500,000 miles annually.
His team is also responsible for transporting our district athletes too. "We have 36 regular daily use line buses and 9 vans. On any given day, especially when sports are in full swing, we could have 45 buses and 9 vans on the road." That's a lot of numbers.
More than numbers
Groer’s enthusiasm for the job and his employees is evident in conversation and in his commitment to the district. Although he can communicate with every driver via two-way radio mounted to each vehicle, he makes a point to greet or see just about every driver and aide in person daily "just to keep in touch and see how they are doing at work and personally."
Now Groer wants to keep in touch with district parents via a new twitter account: @pdsdtransport. As technology has grown and families find themselves on tighter schedules, Groer saw the need to offer his families an additional resource.
"I needed a way to better communicate with our parents and staff who have children going to our schools,” he said. “There are never ending traffic issues that are becoming increasingly more challenging for drivers to make the pickup and drop off. It can affect arrival times." Groer hopes to not only tweet out information when a student's bus is late or held up, but also general information about transportation itself.
"I recently posted what folks need to know to prepare their vehicle for winter since it’s something we take very seriously here at the bus depot. I thought our parents might like that info as well."
Weather and transportation
Groer is part of the decision-making process for weather related delayed openings and closings each winter. The district is often able to transport students in challenging weather because the team is up and ready long before sunrise. Some weather challenges, however, even Groer can't overcome.
"We can handle snow, relatively speaking," he said, "but ice is so unpredictable."
Superintendent Dr. George Steinhoff depends on Groer's expertise to make an informed decision during inclement weather.
"The process of determining whether to close schools or delay schools begins with Al contacting me at 4:30 am with his assessment of regional road conditions," he noted. "This will be the 12th year in which Al will be the first person I consult with on bad weather days. He has a pretty darn good track record!”
Changing weather patterns after school is in session is something Groer and his team also monitor. "It is always challenging when we get the kids into school and then the weather turns and we have to get them home in less than good conditions," Groer explained.
"Not only am I concerned about getting all our employees back to the depot but to also get our kids home safely. It’s not our drivers’ ability that concerns me. It’s that one impatient motorist that doesn’t want to get held up by a bus that makes things dangerous."
Groer hopes his twitter handle offers some insight into his transportation department and its people while providing some valuable information when parents need it. Even those who don't have a twitter account can see his posts on the embedded thread at pdsd.org/transportation. As a committed member of the Penn-Delco community, Groer is looking forward to transportation being just a bit more high-profile.
"I am not just some faceless person behind a desk," he laughs. "I drive our buses, I work with our special education kids as a bus aide when needed, and I care about every kid we bus. Being a parent myself, I know that we transport the most precious cargo in the world."