Vigo County School Corp. has new transportation director

Mar. 11—As the Vigo County School Corp.'s new transportation director, Jack "P.J." Pitts vows to give 110% to the job each and every day.

"I'm a goal setter. I never sit around. I'm always on the move," he said Monday at the General Services bus transportation facility. "I'm going to bring that energy into this job."

He's been with the transportation office for five years, starting as a mechanic, moving up to mechanic supervisor and now transportation director.

He oversees school buses and drivers and looks forward to working with students and ensuring they get to school and return home safely each day.

Pitts, 48, also has much experience driving buses and bus routes; as a mechanic, he's had to be licensed to drive them.

And with the shortage of bus drivers — a nationwide problem — he's also had to step in when needed.

Out of 135 total bus routes, he's driven 125 of them in the past five years.

"I enjoy it. It's fun," he said. If he's driven the same route for awhile, the students "become your kids. ... You care for them just as much as you do your own family."

Being able to relate to drivers will come in handy as he works to recruit more bus drivers, a constant need. Right now, the district has about 115 bus drivers but needs about 20 more.

Recruiting bus drivers is a top priority, he said.

As the district continues responding to the shortage, it could also involve consolidating a few routes and potentially using some smaller, different style buses that don't require drivers to have a CDL (commercial driver's license).

Currently, the district has several individuals taking classes and training to become drivers.

At times, the driver shortage can mean buses are late picking up students or taking them home.

"We're working at it. We've got to be patient. It's not an overnight fix. But we are going to be out recruiting," Pitts said.

Current bus drivers are working hard in response to the shortage. "They are going way past what they need to be doing," Pitts said. "We're going to get there. I promise we're going to get there, it's just not an overnight fix."

Another goal of Pitts is to ride the buses with drivers a little more to see how things are going and offer suggestions, if needed.

"I'm experienced at it. I've been there," he said. "I know what the bus driver is going through."

Pitts still drives a bus sometimes to help out as needed and enjoys it. "I love kids. I've got five kids of my own," he said.

He also has been involved in the community and even dressed as the Grinch for the VCSC-decorated school bus entry during the 2023 Light Your Way Parade that was part of Miracle on 7th Street.

Standing 6-foot, 9-inches tall, Pitt's Grinch was hard not to notice. "We had fun with it," he said.

Being involved shows the community that those in the VCSC transportation department "are human beings. We're not just bus drivers. We enjoy being out there in the community and helping the community. I jump in and try to do everything I can to show that," he said.

But there's much more to Pitts' resume.

He's now in his 29th year as a high school athletics referee and recently received the 2024 Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Mildred Ball Award which goes to an outstanding basketball official.

Pitts has extensive state tournament experience for boys' and girls' basketball and has worked four state finals for boys' basketball and five state finals for girls' basketball.

He still plans to officiate and will referee a semi-state in Seymour this week, but maybe not quite as much with his new responsibilities. He wants to referee at least one more state finals in boys' basketball.

His officiating experience will serve him well in his new role, Pitts said.

As a referee, things can get tense at times and he's been called "everything you can think of," he said.

Pitts knows how to listen and work with parents, kids and coaches. "I think it will go a long way in this role (as transportation director)," he said.

John Newport, VCSC chief operating officer, said a district committee was involved in Pitts' hire.

Pitts' has earned the trust and respect of transportation staff and he is a leader who has a passion for kids and the community, Newport said.

Last week, Pitts worked with a subdivision to change a bus stop and make it safer for students.

"That attention to detail and care is really what I look forward to as PJ grows in his position over the next few years," Newport said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on X at @TribStarSue.