Beth Cohen – one of the two Bs in B&B Transportation – recently retired from the position of bus route coordinator for the town and BOWA district (Bethany, Orange, Woodbridge and Amity).
“We must remember that for most of our students the school day begins and ends with a bus ride, but have you ever wondered how that component is coordinated for 850 students?” said Woodbridge Board of Education Chairman Lynn Piascyk when she officially announced the impending retirement with a heart-felt tribute at the September 19 Woodbridge Board of Education meeting. “The answer is Beth Cohen,” Piascyk said. “She’s a phenomenal leader,” she said, adding, “She leaves me quite in awe about the size of the shoes I will be expected to fill.”
Cohen started working as a substitute teacher at Beecher Road School when John Ploski was school superintendent in Woodbridge in the 1980s. He was looking for help with the bus routes. “That was before I met Brad,” (the other “B” in the B&B team), Cohen said. “It was a need, so I kept on doing it” – for 35 years.
In fact, she has done this for the District as an unpaid volunteer. “It was a labor of love,” she said.
To illustrate what that means, Piascyk pointed to the fact that for 35 school openings Beth Cohen has been creating the bus routes for anywhere between 800 and 1,000 local students, assuring that there is a seat for every child as well as a safe stop for buses to pick up and drop off students. “Each spring and summer, in preparation for the start of a new school year, Beth has traversed the roads of Woodbridge to plot out every single bus stop,” Piascyk said.
Piascyk also talked about the changes that have occurred over the years. In 1989, Beth and Brad founded and incorporated B & B Transportation. “It began with one bus and one contract but all the while Beth was creating the bus routes for all the owner-operators that serviced the Woodbridge School District.”
In 1996, the Woodbridge School District and the Bethany School District decided to utilize the resources of both districts’ transportation contractors which eliminated the need for double bus runs at both schools. “Then in May of 2001, the Woodbridge and Bethany boards of Education voted along with the Amity board to form a regional transportation system creating one of the first examples of shared services in the state of Connecticut, and Beth took on the task of chairing this Joint BOWA Transportation Committee. (Orange still has its own coordinator, Cohen said).
“Over the years Beth’s vision to create community bus stops allowed for transportation streamlining, which ultimately provided savings in the transportation budget,” Piascyk said. “Now you might think that once school begins Beth’s job becomes less demanding but that is far from the truth. Remember that when students move into the district after the first day, they too, must be assigned to a bus and sometimes this demands some creative thinking and resourceful planning.
“I want to thank her for her mentorship, her sense of humor and her willingness to step up,” Piascyk said. “The English language has two little words that encompass all the above and more, and those two words are “Thank You.”
When asked how she is going to fill her days after retirement, Cohen said, “I’m going to be sitting on my front porch.”
Now the grandmother of 8, she is looking forward to spending more time with family, reading, enjoying some of the winter in Florida. Brad is continuing to run the company and she will stay involved in big-picture decisions. “I’ve been working since I was 15 years old,” she said. “I am looking forward to my retirement.”
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent