*Note: Ohio County Schools employees Dave and Patty Cunningham learned on March 22 that their son Shaun, a 2000 graduate of Wheeling Park High School, has been nominated for an Emmy award.
Ohio County Schools bus driver Dave Cunningham is a valued and respected member of the school system’s Transportation Department.
Transportation Director Dave Ziegler couldn’t have been clearer when asked his opinion of Cunningham as a bus driver and as an Ohio County Schools employee.
“He does it all,” Ziegler said.
And, Cunningham begins to do it all at 5:15 a.m. every Monday through Friday. Cunningham inspects his bus, and he is on the road by 5:30 a.m. to transport the students of Wheeling Park High School, Bridge Street Middle School and Middle Creek Elementary School to their respective destinations. He travels approximately 127 miles each day along and through U.S. 40, Valley Grove, Chapel Hill Road and Peter’s Run Road. Over the course of Cunningham’s five daily bus runs, he transports students to their typical school day, field trips, athletic competitions, musical performances and academic events.
His work day most often ends at about 7 p.m. He’s usually in bed at about 8:30 p.m., and he’s back on the road the next morning. If that weren’t enough, Cunningham is involved in the school system’s “Buster” elementary school bus safety program, and he drives a bus during summer school.
Cunningham is a busy man, and he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “I like to work with the kids, so it’s the best job for me.”
Cunningham is a 1971 graduate of Wheeling High School, and he served four years in the U.S. Navy. He worked for 31 years in Wheeling’s Centre Market before becoming a bus driver. Cunningham is in his eighth year as an Ohio County Schools bus driver. He spent his first three years as a substitute driver, and he’s been a full-time driver for the last five years.
Cunningham said he enjoys the morning bus runs the most. He said the students, especially the high school students, are very quiet early in the morning. Cunningham said he is also willing to negotiate with students when it comes to what is being played on the radio.
“I love to listen to West Virginia public radio,” he said. “That’s what I’m listening to when I start. When I pick up the high school kids, they don’t say much. The younger students are pretty quiet in the morning too, but they will tell me what they want to listen to. And, it depends on the morning. Sometimes they will say ‘I want to listen to country.’ On other days they just want to listen to today’s pop tunes.”
Cunningham admitted that there is a possibility that a student could become unruly during a bus run regardless of whether it is a morning or afternoon bus trip. However, he said he has learned the proper way in which to handle such a matter.
“I never raise my voice to them, especially in front of the other students,” Cunningham said. “Mine (students) are really very good. There’s rarely a problem, but if there is, I wait until the (bus) stop. I speak to them one-on-one. If you show them respect, they will show you respect.”
Cunningham and his wife, Patty, who is an Ohio County Schools bus aide, have a Wheeling address in Marshall County. They have two children. Their daughter, Sheena Cunningham, is a 2004 graduate of John Marshall High School, a 2007 graduate of Lake Sumter Community College, Fla. and a 2009 graduate of the Central Florida Institute. She’s now an ultrasound technician in Virginia Beach, Va.
Their son, Shaun Cunningham, is now an award-winning sound engineer in Los Angeles, Calif. He is a 2003 graduate of the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Mass. He is also a 2000 graduate of Wheeling Park High School, but he did not begin school there.
“Shaun started out at John Marshall, but he went to Wheeling Park his senior year,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to pursue music, and he went to Wheeling Park because of all the amazing music programs they have there. He took every music course he could take. There are so many opportunities at Wheeling Park.”
Cunningham said he is nearing retirement age, but that doesn’t mean he plans to retire soon. He said he believes he and his wife will eventually move to be closer to their children, but that will be a while. For now, he will just enjoy driving his bus and spending time with the Ohio County Schools students.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing them grow and seeing what they’ve become,” Cunningham said. “I’ve seen them in elementary school and then go on to be champions on the speech team and captains on the sports teams. That’s nice to see, so I’m going to keep going.”