PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Escambia County Public Schools bus driver and 2010 Pine Forest High School alumnus Cor’Darius Jones is gaining followers on social media for spreading positivity and bus safety.
In 2018, Jones, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Bus Driver,’ was in between jobs after his grandmother passed away. While driving around to clear his head, he saw a sign advertising a bus driver job.
“I would love to tell people I became a bus driver because I love kids,” said Jones. “Back in 2018, my grandmother passed away and I was in between jobs. So, I would drive around to clear my head. Well, I ran across this advertisement just stuck in the ground, ‘Bus drivers needed.’”
Jones said he didn’t think much of the sign, but saw it again minutes later.
“Something in me said that if I saw that sign again, I would go in and apply. It wasn’t more than four or five blocks and I saw a big school bus with a banner on it. That was it,” said Jones. “I don’t know how spiritual everyone is, but I believe it was a sign from God. It was like, I know you’re in this dark place, but this is where you need to be.”
After applying, Jones said he started driving that same day and it was love at first drive. He said the best part of his job is the day-to-day relationship with the students.
“There will be times when I only drive a bus route one time and the kids will beg me to be their bus driver,” said Jones. “It’s not only the relationships that I build with students, but the relationships with staff, parents and the whole community. Sometimes I will drive through communities, and they know my face and I’ll blow the horn and wave. It’s the whole community that makes the job so much more enjoyable.”
As the shy guy growing up, Jones said this job is something he didn’t expect.
“A lot of people can’t tell that I was that shy kid growing up,” said Jones. “But it is amazing because I always said that if I ever got to a point where I could give back to the community or engage with the community, I would do it to my best ability. A lot of people see me in the store and shout at me, ‘Hey, you’re Mr. Bus Driver!’ and I’ll sit there and talk with them forever.”
Now, with 27,000 followers on Facebook and 31,500 on TikTok, Jones said he won’t let the fame get to him.
“Actually, on Friday, a lady saw me in the grocery store and asked for a picture with me to show her kids,” said Jones. “It’s something I’m getting used to, but I will never turn down moments like that. Seeing my followers go up, it is mind-blowing. The biggest increase in followers just happened. I posted that my district gave me a Mr. Bus Driver badge and I got 50,000 reactions to the post and I gained about 8,000 followers. It’s amazing.”
“I never post anything that doesn’t happen on a school bus,” said Jones. “Everything that I post – drivers, school staff, assistants – they know it is what happens. At the same time, there is always a message in every video. Whether it’s a safety message or an informational message to parents there is always a message, but I bring it up in a comedic way, because I feel like that attracts people. When I first started posting, a lot of parents reached out to me and asked if there kids really acted like that on the school bus. Once you drop the kids off, it is a completely different story.”
Looking to spread more tips and information about bus driving, Jones has started a podcast called “The Bus Stop.” The first episode titled “Back2School” focused on how to prepare for the first day, do’s and don’ts and what to expect in the first few weeks of school.
“We talked about things that parents need to know, like being at the bus stop on time, having patience with drivers, understanding that we may be late that first week or two,” said Jones. “We aired it last night and everyone enjoyed it.”
With school starting on Wednesday, Jones said he is just excited to see his students.
“The position that I had for a few years was called a swing driver,” said Jones. “So, I would bounce around from route to route. When I left this last route, a bunch of parents were messaging me saying their child got off the bus crying because they wouldn’t get to see Mr. Jones again. It tore me up. When bidding came for routes, I bid on a permanent route. I saw the kids at orientation and one boy hugged me so tight and was crying and all I could tell him was, ‘I promise, I’ll be back.’”
Since there is a national shortage of bus drivers, Jones advises people that may be interested in joining that it is all worth it.
“Go for it,” said Jones. “It is exactly what I did. At the time I did it, there wasn’t a shortage, but now, just go for it. Help us out. If you are noticing your child’s bus is late every single day and you’re not busy, help us out. The bus is easy to drive, and the students are easy to maintain.”