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Retired FBI Official Takes Job as Bus Driver during Shortage – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Mike Mason was one of the highest ranked FBI agents in the United States. Currently, he takes students to school every morning and afternoon on a yellow school bus.

It wasn’t the career turn he had imagined. He was once an assistant secretary general of the bureau and was responsible for overseeing all criminal investigations, among other duties. But when he retired, when there was a shortage of school bus drivers, he felt pulled to help.

“In context, perhaps half of the FBI’s operational resources were under me,” said 63-year-old Mason from his home in Midlothian, Virginia.

Since late April, Mason has been working as a bus driver at Chesterfield County Public School. “I feel the same sense of duty,” he said, although it is very different from his previous profession.

Every morning at around 5:30 am, Mason carefully inspects a 24-foot-long bus and looks inside and outside to make sure students can ride safely. “I prepare to roll it,” he said. “This is not an exaggeration. Every day I start the bus, I laugh.”

He brings together nine students aged 10 to 18 and drops them at the Faison Center in Richmond, which offers an educational program for children with autism.

Mason understands the struggles that students, especially students with disabilities, faced through the coronavirus pandemic. That eventually spurred him to jump out of his short-lived retirement to drive a school bus.

The idea came to him in January of this year when he saw a local news article about the urgent need for a school bus driver.

Mason learned that a serious shortage was at stake in school districts across the country. Given that the average age of school bus drivers is well above the median age of US workers, many drivers have decided to retire when schools shift their focus to distance learning. However, other drivers did not want to risk the potential for infection by continuing to work face-to-face, and the class was resumed.

Due to the large shortage, the school district had little choice but to adopt creative solutions. Massachusetts will deploy National Guard to fill the void, with Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Ohio likely to soon follow suit.

To attract future drivers, school bus companies have begun offering free training and sign-on bonuses, but many districts, including Baltimore City Public Schools, pay parents to bring their children to school. I am offering that. In some parts of the country, the shortage is so severe that some students are stuck without a round trip to school.

Mason, who retired from the FBI in 2007 and joined Veraison as Chief Security Officer until retiring in December 2020, wanted to help.

He decided he had finished his executive job, but “I was ready to go back to doing something that would give my life a regular rhythm.” In addition, Mason said, “I always wanted to do something with my children,” as the father of two adult sons, who called him “the most precious thing in the world for me.”

Mason grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was raised by a single father who was a school board truck driver. “It’s part of what makes me smile every morning when I crank up this bus,” he said. “It’s a connection with my father.”

When Mason was young, he put groceries in bags, stockpiled on shelves, pumped gas, washed cars, and mowed the lawn to graduate from college.

He graduated from the University of Illinois Wesrian in 1980, then joined the Marine Corps and worked for nearly five years before enrolling in the FBI Academy in 1985. It has been a dream for many years.

Mason has dreamed of being at the FBI since he was in seventh grade. “I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “The reality was beyond what I had dreamed of. I loved the FBI experience every day.”

Mason remembers taping the wire many times on his body and hiding in a local drug dealer in Hartford, Connecticut, for four years. “It was sometimes exciting, exhilarating, and frightening to confront them with the trust and confidence of someone,” he said.

During the 23 years he spent at the FBI, “I became a supervisor from a brand new agent working on a variety of criminal cases, and then moved up the ranks,” he said. “I continue to be one of the four most advanced African-Americans in FBI history and I am very proud of it.”

In 2003, he became head of the Washington Field Office. He then oversaw 6,500 people in Washington and 56 field offices nationwide as an executive assistant director in charge of criminal investigations. He was also responsible for FBI cyber investigations, more than 100 aircraft, an elite hostage rescue team, and 59 FBI offices abroad.

In December 2007, Mason felt ready for change. He joined Verizon in January 2008 and oversaw the company’s global security efforts.

“In any career, it’s time to turn pages and do something different,” he said. “What I like most about all my careers, including driving a school bus, is that they offer the opportunity to learn new things every day.”

Despite Mason’s impressive resume, he wasn’t immediately eligible to become a school bus driver. It took weeks of training to get his commercial license.

Mason has been sending students in and out of school since spring, including during the summer. After completing the training, he was asked if he was willing to transport children with special needs. He replied “absolutely”.

“It has exponentially increased my ability to empathize,” Mason said. “What I enjoyed most was achieving breakthroughs.”

At particularly meaningful moments, I was proud to see the smiles of the shy students for the first time, and when the children waved when they picked me up at school at 2:30 pm. rice field. They want to be self-fulfilling, they want to be the best they can, “Mason said.

Still, driving a school bus is very rewarding for Mason, but it wouldn’t come without a challenge. One day, “it’s a dissonance of noise and chaos, and I can’t wait to stop the bus,” he said. “But I never leave anger. It’s another day and I have a chance to try again.”

Mason, who recently received a coronavirus booster shot, said he is trying not to worry about a pandemic while driving the bus. He has taken all the precautions necessary to avoid infection, he said, and “I chose not to live in some sealed bottles.”

Above all, Mason focuses on student well-being. “When I get on that bus, I have to get on. I have to pay attention to what I’m doing,” he said. “I want my parents to know that I care about my children.”

There are few similarities between Mason’s previous FBI position and his current job, but “I think the similarities are doing what I care about,” he said. .. “Half of loving your work is the attitude you bring to it.”

“This is an experience I always remember and cherish,” he said, regardless of the challenges associated with his work, and “very grateful” for being in a financial position to donate most of his salary. I added. A Call to Men, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, his alma mater, Illinois Weslian University, and many other organizations close to his heart.

According to a representative from Chesterfield County Public School, the starting payment for a bus driver is $ 20.21 per hour, with bonuses of up to $ 3,000 and other financial incentives this year.

Merv Daugherty, director of Chesterfield County Public School, emphasized the important role of bus drivers. The job goes beyond providing transportation.

“As the first and last school representatives most students see every day, bus drivers have a huge impact on their success,” he said. “Mike Mason is an excellent representative of school bus drivers in Chesterfield County and we are very pleased to have him on our team.”

“He’s really a role model for our students, and for all of us,” Daugherty continued.

Mason reminds others that his non-linear career movements bring “significant work” in different ways, and as a school bus driver, whether you’re an important government executive or not. In any case, I hope, “We all donate stones to build the cathedral.”

“If you’re looking for an easy job, don’t be a school bus driver,” Mason advised. “But if you are looking for an important and fulfilling job that is really important and this job is important, this may be for you.”

After all, getting students back and forth to school is more than driving a big yellow bus, Mason said.

“I am carrying the future of America,” he said. “What is more important than that?”

Retired FBI Official Takes Job as Bus Driver during Shortage – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Retired FBI Official Takes Job as Bus Driver during Shortage – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

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