From the workshop parts room out back, Roger Cleere worked his way up to the Ector County ISD Transportation Manager.
Now he is retiring after 28 and a half years.
“I held the position in the parts room, in the workshop as a mechanic. I was the chief engineer. I was shop foreman and then I became transportation manager,” Cleere said.
The buses have changed over the years. In its early days, the vehicles were essentially diesel.
“…The basics of bus operation are pretty much the same,” but they’ve moved from manual switches to more electronics, Cleere said.
Cleere and his wife, Lu, have two children and three grandchildren. Lu retired two years ago as a specialist teacher for ECIDD.
When she retired, Cleere said, she was working in the downtown office.
“She went to several schools and in fact even went to students’ homes… She provided in-home services for children with special needs. His specialty was visually impaired students,” he said.
The Odessa native enjoyed working for the transport department, knowing that it is part of a larger plan to get students to school so they can be educated.
Cleere added that he enjoyed working with his colleagues and being able to give back the most to the community.
“It’s been an amazing journey, no doubt about it,” he said.
Cleere said he planned to retire two years ago.
“…Things kind of evolved along the way. COVID happened…so we made some adjustments…” he added.
In addition to his position as director of transportation, Cleere is minister of music at the Second Baptist Church. He’s been in the church for 18 or 19 years.
He accomplished quite a bit during his time in the district.
“We were able to make a few updates along the way to improve our processes; to try to get the information to the parents more quickly. Sometimes we don’t always get it in a timely manner…in the eyes of the parents. But we are doing better than what we were doing when I came here. We have taken the first steps to obtain this GPS system, which will contain information that we can use here. … Once everything is ready and fully operational, it will also be an information tool for parents. This is probably one of the greatest accomplishments. I wish we were a little further along in this process. But as I said, the process is well under way, and I hope the next Director of Transportation will be able to pick it up and follow through, and complete this process…” Cleere said.
“…One of the things we always struggle with is being able to send last minute communications to parents, that’s always a challenge. We don’t have a good way to do it. With this system, once it is fully operational, it will be something that can be done. … It will be a … huge benefit for transportation,” he added.
The installation of hardware for the GPS system on the buses has already taken place. Next comes an identification system for each student that will be integrated into the transportation system.
Students will tap when getting on the bus and tap when getting off the bus.
“…It will help us keep the bus going, and parents in the future, they can watch and say, okay, my student got on the bus at that time, then he got off at the school at that time. They will be able to see it for themselves,” Cleere said.
Another achievement was the replacement of the aging fleet of buses with the adoption of the tax ratification election a few years ago.
“We were having issues trying to keep up with repairs… so being able to… hire and replace so many buses at once has definitely helped that part of our fleet. It was a…huge thing. …,” Cleere said.
He added that they were very grateful to the community for endorsing the TRE.
During the regular school year, the transportation department transports just over 6,000 students to and from school. During the day, they also run vocational and technical education shuttles, carrying an additional 1,500 to 2,000 students, bringing the total to about 8,000 per day.
In the summer, he says, the numbers aren’t as consistent. It did not have the number of students transported, but they received 1,552 applications.
“And of course we use far fewer buses for the summer courses… We always have to cover the same area. We just have fewer students to pick up, so we have to stretch things out a bit over the summer,” added Cleere.
They do a lot of their bus inspections and repairs over the summer.
“A lot of times if we have something a little bigger, we can wait to get it over the summer. But the main thing we do in the summer is we try to get all the buses here and do a bumper-to-bumper, top-to-bottom inspection. We look at brakes, hoses, everything on the bus for safety systems. We… are trying to fix all the seats; we check all seat belts to make sure they are working properly. It just gives us a time when we have fewer buses running and it gives the mechanics time when the buses are there and available to them all day,” Cleere said.
If something serious goes wrong during the year, they have spare buses they can run.
When asked if he had ever wanted to work in another part of the district, Cleere said that once in transport he realized that was where he was supposed to be.
“That’s what I focused on, and like I said, I worked my way up and here I am today,” he said.
Previously, he worked in an oilfield where there was no sick leave or benefits. After about 10 years, he started looking elsewhere and found the transport department of ECISD.
“At first…I wasn’t really sure this was (where) I wanted to be. But as I was here and worked with the situation, I realized that was where I needed to be. God moves us to different places, in different ways. There’s no doubt about it,” Cleere said.
Reconciling his two vocations to transport and to the church has always been a little difficult.
“But again, I’ve always relied on God to take care of it, to balance the two. That way I can do both tasks and do them successfully,” Cleere said.
The district’s executive director of operations, Cortney Smith, has known Cleere for seven years.
“And throughout that time he has been integral to the day-to-day operations of the transport department at ECIDD. Roger has gone above and beyond for the students in the district – there has been no work too big or too small for him. From managing the department as a whole to taking care of the routes himself when needed. On behalf of all of ECIDD, we wish him nothing but the best and greatly appreciate his service!” Smith said in an email.
Cleere conducts music for Second Baptist