From the parts room in the shop in the back, Roger Cleere worked his way to Ector County ISD transportation director.
Now he’s retiring after 28 1/2 years.
“I’ve held the position in the parts room, in the shop as a mechanic. I’ve been the lead mechanic. I’ve been the shop foreman, and then I became the director of transportation,” Cleere said.
Buses have changed over the years. When he started, the vehicles were mainly diesel.
“… The basic parts of the operation of the buses is pretty much the same,” but they have gone 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 special needs teacher for ECISD.
When she retired, Cleere said, she was working out of the downtown office.
“She was traveling to multiple schools and actually she was even traveling to students’ homes … She did some in-home service to special needs kids. Her specialty was in visually impaired students,” he said.
The Odessa native has enjoyed working for the transportation department knowing that it is part of the larger plan for getting students to school so they can be educated.
Cleere added that he has enjoyed working with his colleagues and being able to give back to the community the most.
“It’s been an extraordinary journey, without a doubt,” he said.
Cleere said he had planned to retire two years ago.
“… Things kind of evolved along the way. COVID happened … so we made some adjustments …,” he added.
Along with his transportation director position, Cleere is the minister of music at Second Baptist Church. He has been with the church for 18 or 19 years.
He has accomplished quite a bit during his time with the district.
“We’ve been able to make some updates along the way to make our processes better; to try to get information back to the parents in a more timely manner. Sometimes, we don’t always get it there as timely … in the parents’ eyes. But we do better than what we did when I first came here. We’ve made the first steps in getting this GPS system, which will have information that we can use here. … Once it’s all up and fully operational, it’ll be an informational tool for the parents, as well. That’s probably one of the biggest accomplishments. I wish we were a little further along in that process. But like I said, the process is well underway, and hopefully, the next transportation director will be able to pick that up and run with it, and complete that process …,” Cleere said.
“… One of the things we always have trouble with is being able to get out last-minute communications to parents, That’s always a challenge. We don’t have a good way to do that. With this system, once it’s fully operational, that will be something that will be able to be done. … That will be a … huge positive for transportation” he added.
The installation of the hardware for the GPS system on the buses has already taken place. Next comes an ID system for every student that will be incorporated into the transportation system.
Students will tap on as they get in the bus and tap off as they get off the bus.
“… That’ll help us keep up with attendance on the bus, and the parents in the future, they’ll be able to look and say, okay, my student got on the bus at this time, then they got off at the school at this time. They’ll be able to see that themselves,” Cleere said.
Another achievement was replacing the aging fleet of buses with passage of the tax ratification election a few years ago.
“We were having issues with trying to keep up with repairs … so by us being able to … lease and replace that many buses at one time, that did help that part of our fleet, for sure. That was a … huge thing. …,” Cleere said.
He added that they were very appreciative to the community for approving the TRE.
During the regular school year, the transportation department transports a little over 6,000 students to and from school. During the day, they also run career and technical education shuttles, transporting another 1,500 to 2,000 students bringing the total to about 8,000 a day.
In the summertime, he said, the numbers are not as consistent. He didn’t have numbers of students transported, but they have received 1,552 requests.
“And of course we’re running way fewer buses for summer school … We still have to cover the same area. We just have less students to pick up, so we have to kind of stretch things out a little bit in the summertime,” Cleere added.
They do a lot of their inspections and bus repairs during the summer.
“A lot of times if we have something that’s a little more major, we may hold off to get it during the summertime. But the main thing we do in the summertime is we try to get every bus in here and do an inspection bumper to bumper, top to bottom. We’re looking at breaks, hoses, anything on the bus for safety systems. We … try to fix all the seats; we check all the seat belts to make sure that they’re operating properly. That just gives us a time when we have less buses that are running and it gives the mechanics time where the buses are here and available to them all day long,” Cleere said.
If something major goes wrong during the year, they have spare buses they can run.
Asked if he ever wanted to work in another part of the district, Cleere said once he got into transportation he realized that was where he was supposed to be.
“This is 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 job where there was no sick leave and no benefits, so after about 10 years he started to look elsewhere and found the transportation department at ECISD.
“At first … I wasn’t real sure that this is (where) I wanted to be. But then as I was here and worked with the situation, I realized that this was where I needed to be. God moves us in different places, in different ways. There’s no doubt about that,” Cleere said.
Balancing his two vocations at transportation and the church has always been a bit of a challenge.
“But again, I’ve always depended on God to take care of that, to balance the two out. That way I can do both jobs and do them successfully,” Cleere said.
Executive Director of District Operations Cortney Smith has known Cleere for seven years.
“And throughout that time, he has been vital to the daily operations of the ECISD Transportation Department. Roger has gone above and beyond for the students in the district – there has been no job too big or too small for him to handle. From running the department as a whole, to picking up routes himself when there was a need. From all of ECISD – we wish him nothing but the best and greatly appreciate his service!” Smith said in an email.