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Howk retires as DC tranportation coordinator
Oct. 24, 2011

Retirement open house set for Friday, Oct. 28

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – Marilyn Howk has decided it is time to permanently park the bus and retire from her position as transportation coordinator for the Dassel-Cokato School District.

“This was never a job that I had to feel it was going to be a boring day – there’s always something to do,” Howk said. Taking over her position as transportation coordinator will be Kevin Miller currently of Maple Lake.

Howk has been with the district for 31 years. “It would have been 32 years, but I retired once before for a year,” Howk explained.

When she retired the first time, her twin granddaughters were due to be born, and now they are seniors, Howk said.

One of her most memorable moments is when the district called her back to be transportation secretary after being retired for a year.

In 1979, when Howk began her career with the district, she drove bus for five years, before becoming the transportation secretary and curriculum typist.

“The evolution of the position has been interesting,” Howk said, noting she used an old-fashioned typewriter to type the rosters of each bus route back then.

“Now everything is done on a computer and trip request – everything comes online,” Howk said. (Trip request is a website which helps map and schedule bus routes.)

Today, Howk’s position includes many responsibilities: routing the district buses, coordinating with Cokato Transportation for the contracted routes, scheduling the drivers and buses for activity runs, hiring, training, and evaluating drivers; and keeping up with the changes.

While changing technology has made her job easier throughout the years, some changes have made it more complicated.

“People are more mobile nowadays, they move around a lot more, even during the school year,” Howk said, adding that changing family structures add complications, as well.

Another area that complicates things is mainstreaming special needs children, Howk said, which adds another element to coordinating transportation.

“I learned to be more tolerant of special needs families,” Howk said.

A complication that has always been a part of the job is deciding what to do in inclement weather.

Some of the most difficult years for snow and ice were when she was still driving, Howk said.

She remembers a picture in the local newspaper of a bus sitting across the road in icy weather; its back wheels stuck in the ditch.

There were eight buses stuck that one afternoon, Howk noted.

One of the favorite parts of her job has been learning the diverse population of the district, Howk said.

She has also liked working with her co-workers over the years.

“And working with the students,” Howk said. “I still had the opportunity to get out there and drive once in a while, and kids are just fun.”

Howk teared up as she remembered her most difficult day on the job.

It was in the mid-1980s, when an activity bus was returning from a girls’ basketball game and collided nearly head-on with another vehicle.

Only a few of the kids on the activity bus were transported to the hospital, most with minor shin injuries from hitting the seat in front of them.

However, the driver of the other vehicle died as a result of the accident, Howk said.

Although it was a tragedy, Howk said she is thankful the other vehicle ended up behind the bus when the accident was over so the children on the bus did not have to see what was happening.

Now that she will be retiring, Howk said she hopes she is a better person for all she has learned over the years.

“I have enjoyed the job. There were many days that were stressful, but I enjoyed it,” Howk said. “Time went so fast, I can’t believe it’s been that many years.”

Howk plans to spend more time with her husband and her mother after retirement.

She looks forward to spending more time at home, and with her hobbies.

“Lord willing, we’ll be able to do some traveling in the summer,” Howk said. “But I’m mostly just looking forward to being at home.”

An open house retirement party will take place Friday, Oct. 28 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. in the community room near the Performing Arts Center at the DC High School.

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