Avery County School Bus Driver Mitch Banner Named Best in the State for 2016

Published Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 9:48 am

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After navigating a big yellow school bus through an obstacle course that tested drivers’ skills in mastering a diminishing clearance, backing, making a tight turn and parallel parking, Avery County school bus driver Mitch Banner was named the best school bus driver in North Carolina at the annual State School Bus ROADeo held last Thursday in Raleigh.

Mitch Banner, of the Avery County Schools Transportation, was named champion of the 2016 North Carolina School Bus Roadeo on May 12 in Raleigh. He now advances to the International School Bus Safety Finals in July, where he will face drivers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This is not the first time Mitch has been the state winner, as he was the top winner in 2012 also.

Mr. Banner competed with bus drivers from across the state in several areas, including a written test and several driving skills tests. Drivers had to demonstrate their skills in driving through nine different obstacle courses, such as parallel parking, backing into an alley, and diminishing clearance with only 1 ½ inches of clearance on each side of the bus.

Mitch has been driving a bus since he was only 16 years old. He has been employed by the Avery County School System for 35 years, with 32 of those years driving the county fuel truck.

Transportation Director Brian King commented that Mitch has proved to be an invaluable employee in the Avery County Schools, and his dependability is outstanding. David Burleson, Superintendent of Avery County Schools, shares those views. He said, “Not only is Mitch one of the finest bus drivers in the history of the Avery County Schools, he is also one of the most dependable and conscience employees we have ever had. We are very proud of Mitch and wish him the very best in the national competition in July.”

Mitch is married to the former Sharon Wood and lives in Linville.

The other top nine drivers in the competition in order of finish from 2nd to 10th place were:

  • Byron Lanier (Wake County Schools)
  • Eric Turner (Hertford County Schools)
  • Boyce Chapman (Cabarrus County Schools)
  • Billy McKemey (Wake County Schools)
  • Andre Patterson (Public Schools of Robeson County)
  • Johnnie Waters (Onlsow County Schools)
  • John Gore (Brunswick County Schools)
  • Jeffrey Cassidy (Onslow County Schools)
  • Barerra McPherson (Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools)

Banner received a $500 cash prize and will represent North Carolina in the international school bus driving competition to be held this summer in Greensboro. The 2nd through 5th place finishers received $300, $200, $100 and $75, respectively. Sixth through 10th place finishers each won $50.

Thirty-two school bus drivers participated in the final testing and driving competition to name the top school bus driver in North Carolina. Thirty of the drivers advanced to the state finals by placing in the top 10 of a regional competition.

The North Carolina Pupil Transportation Association, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Transportation Services Section and Wake County Public School System’s Transportation Department sponsor the annual State School Bus ROADeo.

For more information, please contact NCDPI Communications at 919.807.3450.

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