Pair of Platte County R-3 employees honored for innovative "haunted bus"

A pair of enterprising employees at the Platte County R-3 School District were recently recognized for helping make a routine event more memorable. Melissa O’Connell and Candice Rivera Roman, bus drivers in the southern portion of the district, sought and obtained permission to create a haunted bus for Pathfinder Elementary’s Trunk n Treat event held prior to Halloween. They were given the monthly staff recognition at last month’s board of education meeting for the innovative idea.

Contributed photo Melissa O’Connell, left, and Candice Rivera Roman pose outside of the “haunted bus” they created for a Trunk n Treat event at Pathfinder Elementary in late October. The event drew hundreds, and students were able to take a trip through the bus in addition to the normal candy handouts. The Platte County R-3 School District honored the two bus drivers for their work on the project during a recent board meeting.

“They conceived it, came up with a plan,” Platte County director of transportation JT Thomas said in honoring the duo during the board meeting. “From everything that I’ve heard, it was a great success.”

After being approached with the idea, Thomas went through the proper channels to receive permission, even talking to the district’s insurance company to check on liability. O’Connell and Rivera Roman paid or received donations for the supplies needed, which included inflatables and decorations.

The bus ended up with a pirate theme, and both drivers dressed the part to participate in the display. A few other drivers also helped, and Pathfinder principal Dr. Devin Doll said about 500 students were at the Trunk n Treat, many of them treated to more than just the usual candy thanks to O’Connell and Rivera Roman’s innovative efforts.

“The only problem I have is that we’re trying to get more students to ride the bus, and I think we might have scared a few of them,” Doll joked. “In all honesty, the kids loved it. They had fun with it. Melissa and Candy were there well after our Trunk n Treat was over, tearing it down. The kids were still talking about it, wondering if this will be an ongoing thing.”

For their part, O’Connell and Rivera Roman want to make the haunted bus happen again next year.

“This was a learning experience for us,” O’Connell said. “We wanted to start a trend, so every year this is something we do want to do and build upon and make better.

“Even the parents had a ball going through there.”

The district presented O’Connell and Rivera Roman with certificates and gift certificates to be redeemed for Pirate gear from the school store, in accordance with the SCHIVR Me Timbers honor given to those deemed to have displayed the district’s core values. However, the recognition meant more than the presentation, especially for Rivera Roman.

“Just so you know, I didn’t do this for myself,” Rivera Roman said, tearing up while talking to the board. “I love my job. I’ve been driving for 20 years, and this is by far the best school district I’ve ever driven for. I’m very thankful (the district) took a chance on me, and I’ll be here until I retire. I love it; I absolutely love it. Thank you very much.”