Teachers ride student buses

Chronicle Staff

Ninth grade dean and English teacher Jon Wimbish’s Princeton banner is tacked to the simple wooden-slat wall of his makeshift office, a trailer fronting the lower lawn and ninth grade lockers.

When he walks out of his new office, he can look down at the familiar senior garden, unchanged since the campus’ days as Westlake School.

But to the right of the garden, something has changed.

A vast field of dirt lies where the new middle school campus is being built.

Wimbish’s office is not the only thing that’s been changed because of the construction. He now takes a yellow school bus to and from work.

Last year, after 115 spots were eliminated, it became clear that parking would be an issue at the Middle School.

Teachers and staff members were given three options: continue to drive themselves to school, carpool or take the bus.

Employees were offered a bonus of $2,000 if they chose either of the two latter options. As many as 14 middle school teachers and staff members take yellow buses to and from school on a regular basis and 20 carpools have been started, Vice President John Amato said.

Wimbish gets onto his bus—Sunset 3—at the Kenter stop almost every morning at 7:17 a.m. He drives to the bus stop and parks his car there.

 “The first time I got on the bus, I didn’t know where to sit,” Wimbish said. “I didn’t know whether the bus driver wanted me to spread out or monitor the kids, so I just sort of sat in the front. That’s become the teachers’ area now.”

Science teacher David Cleland, art teacher Brenda Anderson and librarian Carolyn Zucker also take the bus with Wimbish.

On Wimbish’s bus, he and the other teachers help students with their homework.
He has quizzed bus mates on biology, geometry and Spanish.

He even helped one student set up an English essay on the way to school.

Taking the bus has been an inconvenience for Wimbish. While he left school at 4:15 p.m. on most days, he is now forced to leave at 3:25 p.m. unless he waits for the late bus at 5:35 p.m. Buses leave several minutes later on Monday.

“It forces a bit of efficiency,” he said.

While Advancement Officer Beth Phelan was worried at first about needing to wake up half an hour earlier to make the bus, she decided that it was worth the savings on gas and insurance rates.

Her fiancé drops her off at the bus stop every morning.

On Phelan’s Los Feliz bus, two of the rows in the front of the bus are marked off for “staff only,” but Phelan likes to get around and mingle with the students.

“I laugh an awful lot on the bus,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I was 12, 13 or 14. It just adds a little extra spark to being here.”

Charlotte Gordon ’12 and her twin sister Roxy ’12 are two students on Phelan’s bus.
“The teachers get a look into our lives,” Charlotte said. “They eavesdrop all the time. They just can’t help themselves because we’re so interesting.”

“It’s a little awkward because we still talk a lot, and we have to watch what we’re saying,” her sister said.

One time, when Roxy got upset with a friend on the bus, she shouted a word of profanity.
One of the teachers on the bus “got up and started screaming at us. He told us: ‘Watch your language, ladies,’” Roxy said.

Phelan has been riding the bus for more than three months now, and she is still working her way to the top of the bus hierarchy.

“I’ve never much gotten past the middle of the bus,” she said. “I’ve never made it to the very back. I’m not sure if they’d let me. I don’t know if I would pass the test.”