BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - Before overseeing over 300 buses, bus operators and making sure nearly 14,000 students make it safely to and from Bossier Parish schools, retired Lt. Col. David Hadden served in the United States Air Force.
Born and raised in Bossier City, he went to Airline High School and attended Northwestern State University before joining the military.
“I joined the military to see the world,” Hadden said. “The Air Force assigned me to the other side of town three times. I became an intercontinental ballistic missile officer in Missouri and worked about 210 feet below the ground so to speak. I transferred into the aircraft maintenance and munitions career field and had the opportunity to supervise a unit of about 600 troops, maintain the largest operational weapons stockpile in the Air Force and then having to supervise the largest weapons depot for the Department of Defense and maintain the Department of Energy’s weapons.”
During his service, he also traveled to Europe then came back to Louisiana to maintain the B-52′s at Barksdale Air Force Base. Hadden says it was an honor to be able to command several units during his service.
“You have those opportunities for two years at a time,” Hadden said. “You try to give it everything you got and it’s just a pure pleasure for the Air Force to have selected me to do something like that. At Whiteman AFB I had the opportunity to command the B-2 maintenance units. So we were responsible for all the B-2′s in the Air Force.”
He says throughout school, he took what his coaches taught him and utilized it throughout his life. Same with the military, he now applies what he has learned to his job as the Bossier Parish Schools Transportation Director.
“Today I have the opportunity to lead around 300 bus drivers and mechanics, staff members and bus aides as we transport 13,500 kids to school each day,” Hadden said. “There are some things you learn from the military, learn from your logistics background or your maintenance background as you try to deliver kids to school. Somebody one day asked me what was more challenging: launching B-52′s and B-2′s into battle or launching 230 buses a day in Bossier Parish. I’ll tell you the second one is a huge challenge.”
When Hadden left the military, he taught ROTC in Bossier Parish for 8 years.
“That is absolutely the best job you can have in the parish,” Hadden said. “To be able to work with young students teaching them citizenship and service is the best job you can have. The parish did offer me the opportunity to utilize my military experience to help this particular department. I get into the weeds on certain things. Logistics is logistics and whether you are deploying units around the world or your trying to deploy a school bus transportation force around the parish it’s basically the same. My military background has helped me a lot.”
“The public sees buses from 6-8 in the morning and 2-4 in the afternoon, but in reality, we have got buses going all over the place every day,” Hadden said. “We’ve got majority to minority buses, McKinney-Vento homeless buses, we’re picking kids up at 5:30 in the morning in North and South Caddo, the Webster and Bienville Parish lines, we have programs throughout the day, sports, fieldtrips. We typically run 2,400 buses a year.”
This past school year was unlike any other. School districts across the country had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, from adapting new learning models to figuring out how to social distance students on buses.
“It was a big challenge when you go from 100% capacity to 75% capacity,” Hadden said. “That put a huge strain on us. It forced many of our drivers to have to run tiers, meaning they had to pick up students, drop them off, then go back, pick up some more and drop them off. Most of the buses already run to two schools to begin with so it was a challenge when you have buses running tiers for their first school and then tiers for their second school. So we had to change timing around the parish. In some parts of the parish we had to completely break the transportation model. There was no way to get students from the east reservation to the Haughton schools and then go back to east reservation to pickup and come back.”
For his hard work, Hadden was the district’s first Gold Star recipient of the 2020-2021 school year. Bossier School District employees who go above and beyond their job can be nominated for a Gold Star award.
Hadden hopes families appreciate the all hard work everyone in the transportation department has put into making sure their children get to school and home safely.
“I was fortunate to have a terrific bus driver when I was a kid here,” Hadden said. “Being a bus driver is a great public service position. To be able to see kids in the morning and help start their day on the right foot, to say goodbye and have a great evening in the afternoon, which for many kids may be the last positive thing they hear that day, it’s an exceptional job. I wish the parish could hear our bus drivers on the radio in the morning. They not only pick up their kids and drop them off, but if for some reason we are short the radio is blaring with bus drivers going to other people’s routes to help them.
Even when a driver might say they got all their kids, other drivers will say they’ll swing by the neighborhood just incase there is any kid left behind. Our drivers are phenomenal. Bus drivers in general just don’t get enough credit. Watching video or seeing the kids on the bus, hearing bus drivers sing to the kids just kind of brings you back to a day where everything in the world was ok. Really when you see that type of thing day to day, things are good. There are very positive things happening on the school buses, in the schools and in our community.”