BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County School System is bidding farewell to many dedicated educators, aides, custodians, secretaries, administrators, principals and bus operators this year – including longtime, well-loved chief transportation department mechanic Paul Johnston.
Johnston been employed with Upshur County Schools for many years and most recently served as the transportation chief mechanic.
Johnston said his career with Upshur County Schools began around 35 years ago.
“I started as a mechanic, and it has been a great place to work,” Johnston said. “In 2002, I took over as the chief mechanic or shop foreman.”
Johnston grew up in Upshur County and attended school, starting in a county school in Selbyville.
“When that school closed down, I finished elementary school at French Creek,” he said. “I went to Buckhannon Junior High and Buckhannon High School. I attended Fred Eberle Technical School my senior year and studied electricity. After graduation, I went to Nashville, Tennessee, and attended an auto diesel college where I learned auto mechanics, diesel mechanics and welding.”
Johnston said being chief mechanic means he’s responsible for making sure all the vehicles are in working order. He said the Upshur County School system has about 60 vehicles and about 46 regular bus runs a day. There are also other vehicles including a dump truck, a backhoe and driver’s education vehicles.
“We take care of all of them,” he said laughing.
Over the years, Johnston said some of the challenges of the job have revolved around safety.
“You don’t cut any corners especially because of the cargo we are carrying,” he said. “You couldn’t be hauling any more precious cargo that what we are, so you try to keep reiterating how important it is to be safety-minded when working on the school buses.”
He said the best part of his job over the years has been that folks working in Upshur County Schools are a close-knit family.
“We used to celebrate together and come together with one another during trying times,” he said.
Johnston said his advice for employees in the future is to conserve their sick days instead of using them up as quickly as they earn them.
“Some people are in the frame of mind that they have earned these days and they waste them,” he said. “You try to explain to people how important it is to build up at least a month of sick time in case something happens. Some of the younger folks do not understand the importance of that.”
Johnston said when he retires, he’ll have banked about 590 sick days.
“I hope I have had a positive influence on the system, and that I have completed satisfactory work,” he said. “I hope my record speaks positively.”
“Working on the buses is challenging at times, but overall, working for Upshur County Schools has been a good job – and it offers me retirement,” he said.
Speaking of retirement, Johnston said what he looks forward to the most during his retirement is spending time with his family – especially his grandchildren – and working on his farm. He said his farm in Selbyville near Holly Grove has been in the family for generations. He enjoys growing plants and tending to his animals.
“No big plans for my retirement,” he said. “I live on the same farm that I was born and raised on. I still run a few head of cattle, and there will be a lot of farm work going on. Otherwise, I will spend time with my family and grandkids. Our oldest granddaughter will be graduating from high school this year.”
Randy Hardman, Upshur County Schools Transportation Director, said he has known Paul ever since high school.
“He is a heck of a good fellow and does a great job,” Hardman said of Johnston. “I wish him well on his retirement.”
Sherry Dean, the former Director of Transportation for Upshur County Schools, said she and Johnston worked together for many, many years.
“I worked with Paul when he was a mechanic and the chief mechanic,” Dean said. “He is a wonderful human being and a wonderful person. I wish him the best of everything that life can give him.”