The Cleburne ISD transportation department has been honored by the Waco Midway High School baseball team for going the extra mile.
CISD Transportation Director Chad VanWinkle and Mechanic Tim Brewer were presented with a baseball signed by the team and coaches at the Panthers’ Bi-District Game 2 played in Cleburne.
The CISD employees had come to the aid of the team following Game 1, which took place in Cleburne the evening before. As the Midway ISD bus drove out of a restaurant parking lot onto West Henderson, the rear engine bottomed out on the pavement, cracking the oil pan.
The 72-passenger bus made it all of two blocks, leaking a massive amount of oil in its wake. It’s final resting place for the night was a business parking lot.
“The trail of oil was a dead giveaway that the bus had reached its final destination,” Brewer said. “It was after 10:30 [p.m.] and they were more than an hour away from home.”
A Midway baseball coach contacted Wayland White, a member of the Cleburne High School coaching staff who has been working closely with teams playing at the home of the Jackets as the site for baseball playoff games.
“I called Chad and woke him up,” White said. “I knew Midway was in a tough spot. But I also knew Chad and his crew would help.”
After inspecting the bus, it was determined it would have to wait until morning for a wrecker. VanWinkle brought a CISD bus to the scene and, loaded with Panthers, sent it back to Waco. He and Brewer followed behind, to drive the bus back to Cleburne. Their “night” ended at 3:30 a.m.
Both were back on the job a few hours later, with Brewer meeting the wrecker, then cleaning up the oil leak. It’s what one public school transportation department does for another — and for kids — VanWinkle said.
“Normally, we would have sent them on their way with one of our buses and gone home for the night,” VanWinkle said. “But we weren’t sure we would get the bus back in time to take care of our kids. They were estimating a noon return time.”
“’It’s just what we do,’ is the motto they have here in transportation. If someone needs to be somewhere, we’ll figure it out and get them taken care of. [Former Transportation Director] David Walker established that mindset and we’ve kept it going.
“It did make for a long Friday, as people start showing up for work in our department by 5:30 a.m. Our day ends at 5:30 p.m. when all the buses are back from their after school routes. But the Midway team also had a long day and night. I think Midway was shocked we were going to let them take a bus. But those kids needed to get home and in bed, to be ready for school the next day.
“Coach White was planning on driving the bus to Midway. But I didn’t want him to drive, then have to get up and teach the next day. I’m glad he called us. He was the point man in this. Cleburne [Police Department] was very helpful and understanding of Midway’s situation. The businesses on North Pendell were also very understanding, and I’m glad the wrecker got the bus moved before they opened for the day. Cleburne made a good impression that night.”
What took place between the two districts should not be viewed as uncommon, Brewer said.
“You’ll see help like this between school districts throughout the state,” Brewer said. “Last spring we helped a bus from Waco ISD coming home from a football game. It had broken down by Jacket Stadium. We patched it up and got them on their way. We’ve also helped buses from Granbury and Stephenville.
“Those kids from Midway needed to get back home. They would have set there for hours, in the dark, if we hadn’t helped. We would hope if that happened to one of our buses, our kids would get that same kind of response.”
Lead Mechanic Jeff Day says coming to the aid of the Panthers was all in a day’s — or night’s — work.
“It’s how we roll,” Day said. “We have the mindset that if we have a bus broken down in our area, we’re on the way with the service truck. We don’t wait to see if someone else is going to help them. If the problem gets fixed while we are in route, we can always turn around. We aren’t prideful, but we know people think a lot of you when you come and help. We just do what we do.”
For CISD transportation, the “thank you” from the Midway baseball team was not necessary, but was very much appreciated.
“It was nice,” Brewer said. “It made me feel appreciated.”
VanWinkle said it was a nice gesture.
“Signing a baseball and presenting it is a big deal to a baseball team. When we got on the bus that night to bring it back, it was cleaned and swept,” he said. “Midway took the time to make sure we didn’t have to do anything to have the bus ready by the next morning.”
MISD officials said CISD transportation hit a home run for the Panthers.
“We are so grateful for what they did in taking care of our team and coaches,” Midway Coach Jeff Hulme said. “They went above and beyond. We hope if we can do anything to return the favor, Cleburne doesn’t hesitate to ask.”
Midway Principal Alison Smith said they were saved a ton of time.
“We can’t express our thanks enough,” Smith said. “We appreciate Cleburne taking the time to help out our people.”
VanWinkle says the incident reflects the quality of the people he works with and the attitude they bring to the job every day.
“These are good people,” he said. “They go out of their way to get the job done and do it right. They focus on problem solving, rather than problems. David Walker always said we had the best transportation department in the area. I think what happened in our treatment of Midway reflects that. As the newest director of transportation, I’m just continuing the culture that has been established here.”