Debby Ley lives by the philosophy that safety always comes first.
Ley is the location manager at First Student, a school bus transportation company in Ebensburg. She is in charge of scheduling bus runs for Central Cambria, Blacklick Valley, Holy Name and Bishop Carroll schools along with handling day-to-day operations at the business.
“I’m here at 5:30 a.m. and stay until at least 5 p.m. every day, so it makes for long days,” the 54-year-old Ebensburg resident said.
“But I work with a phenomenal group of employees who make the job easier.”
Ley started in the business in April 1978, when she worked as secretary for Frank Castelli Ford Sales, which also operated Central Transportation. She eventually became manager of Central Transportation, scheduling school bus routes. The company was sold in 2000 to Laidlaw, the predecessor corporation of First Student, and Ley continued to serve as manager. In 2002, First Student took over.
“First Student has 60,000 buses in the country,” she said. “We have 58 buses here with 50 drivers.”
Ley said what sets First Student buses apart from others is that they are all equipped with the Child Check-Mate System. The alarm system serves as a reminder for drivers to check the bus before they exit to make sure there are no children left behind.
All buses have a GPS that can track students at all times and a surveillance system.
“It’s very important to have the Child Check-Mate System because you need to check and double-check because it’s so easy for kids to fall asleep on the bus,” Ley said. “We’ve had this for about three or four years and it’s a nice system.”
And over the years she’s had many students in her office for one reason or another, usually at the beginning of each school year when things are more hectic and students are getting used to new routes.
“They’ll come in and we’ll chat,” Ley said. “I have coloring books and crayons for them.”
She said one of her favorite parts of the job is working with the schools and district staff, who all strive to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“Everyone is so helpful,” Ley said. “Working with the kids is great, and I’ve lived my whole life here and have a great rapport with parents. I’ve seen two generations, sometimes three, coming through.”
Joe Skura, the assistant athletic director at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, said when he started a positive athlete program at the school he needed a sponsor for the program. He called Ley, who immediately stepped up and said First Student would help out.
“Debby is a kind and dedicated professional. She’s just one of those people you can depend on,” he said. “She is meticulous about making sure every detail is taken care of through scheduling and providing the best experience for all individuals who work with the bus company.”
When she’s not at her job, the mother of two is active with the Children’s Miracle Network, which raises funds and awareness to improve medical facilities and health care for sick and injured children.
It’s an organization that’s been dear to her heart since 2000.
“I do this because of the kids, that’s what my job is all about and that’s who I’m around 24/7,” Ley said.
“Visit any of the children’s hospitals and you’ll know why I do this.”
As for First Student, Ley said she couldn’t imagine herself working anyplace else.
“Some days can be stressful, but I truly enjoy my job,” she said.
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