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BHS launches first Carpenter Bus project

John Maher donated $30,000 to the BHS Athletic Department for access to new buses at Carpenter Bus Sales in Franklin for game-day trips. Curt Mitchell, left, general manager for Carpenter Bus Sales, Builder John Maher, BHS Principal Kevin Keidel, and BHS Athletic Director Ronnie Seigenthaler toured one of the new buses this week with cross country athletes.   Kerri Bartlett

BHS athletes (from back to front) Elizabeth Scott, Lacey Duvall, Taylor Caldwell, Alec Thomas, Coleman Churitch, Aaron Thomas, tried out a new bus for away game trips.


Bumpy rides, no air conditioning and cramped space describe a typical athlete’s bus ride to away games, whether basketball player, wrestler or volleyball player. 

However, students across the Williamson County Schools district have a chance to cruise more comfortably to their destination and even complete homework a bit neater – less stray pencil marks from sudden bumps – due to a partnership between the school district, Carpenter Bus Sales and homebuilder John Maher of John Maher Builders, Inc., both in Franklin.

The partnership between Maher and Carpenter’s General Manager Curt Mitchell stems from their common first-hand experiences as parents of Brentwood High School athletes. 

Both Maher and Mitchell have children who have played basketball, volleyball, run track and other sports, and frequently they traveled on school buses, old buses contracted by outside sources or cramped parent mini vans.

“John and I have been talking about this for about two years,” Mitchell said. “We were concerned about transporting the athletes in worn buses. It will be a roomier, more comfortable ride with more storage compartments and a more comfortable space to complete homework with seat belts.” 

Coach Ronnie Seigenthaler in driver’s seat

He estimated that athletes spend between 15-20 hours on a school bus during a typical sporting season due to away games. 

“It’s better to turn that time into productive time rather than spend it on a cramped school bus,” Mitchell said.

Maher said that he even remembers when his daughter’s team used an old rented bus that sometimes broke down on volleyball trips. That experience led to him developing a solution. 

Maher donated $30,000 to be matched by community fundraising and donations to pay for the use of the 15-45 passenger buses at BHS for away games.

Mitchell is offering his company’s bus service at a significantly reduced rental rate. The total donations could provide bus services at BHS for up to six years.

However, any school in the county can benefit. The same service will be offered at the same reduced rates for transportation.

“It solves transportation and scheduling issues,” Coach Ronnie Seigenthaler said. “The buses are available for all teams at all times. I love it.”

County school buses are only available to provide transportation for teams beginning at 4:30 p.m. or after bus drivers finish their routes for the day. Carpenter buses can be available as early as 2:25 p.m. when the high school dismisses. 

“I like to be prepared, on time and not stressed,” Seigenthaler said. “I tell my kids to fight the good fight. If you are on time, you are late. So, you have to be early. It’s nice to have prep time before an event so that the athletes can perform to the best of their ability.”

Many buses sport air conditioning, leather seats, seat belts, extendable and reclining chairs, and small screens to show images from a DVD player.

“It was like Christmas when the kids first saw the bus,” Seigenthaler said. “They said ‘It smells like a new car,’ and they were impressed with the expandable seats and luggage space.”

BHS cross-country student athlete Alec said, “I am used to crammed two-passenger vans, so I really liked to see all of the space with extra leg room, which can reduce soreness.”

However, the bus’ perks are just extra bonuses of having an efficient ride, Seigenthaler said.

“It’s not about style, but about safety above anything else and comfort for the athletes.” 

Maher began to put the idea in motion when he became an ambassador for the WCS Ambassador Program last year.

The ambassador program, led by Dr. Deb Enright, WCS development director, allowed 19 community leaders (ambassadors) including Maher to learn about the daily functions of schools in the district to eventually apply their skills and services in a way that would enhance and empower schools, the community and/or the district. 

Ambassadors held meetings and activities for five months last school year from January to May, compiling ideas and organizing ways to impact schools and the community. 

This school year marks the initial implementation phase of the ambassador program, which has resulted in programs like the Carpenter Bus at BHS.  

About 17 programs have been implemented, including such services as hotel giveaways for PTO silent auctions, funding for technology, transportation of seniors to high school plays and even an upcoming summer nonprofit student project to partner with Belmont University. 

The district is currently interviewing participants for the next ambassador class. 

“The buses are safe, comfortable and we can access them during the times that we need them. I appreciate the generosity of Mr. Maher and Mr. Mitchell and how this will help out our school,” BHS Principal Kevin Keidel said.

To Maher and Mitchell, it’s about giving back to a school that has supported their children and family. 

“WCS has been wonderful to my family,” Mitchell said.  

Over the years, Mitchell has formed strong ties at the home of the Bruins. “My wife, Laura, a teacher at BHS passed away in 2011. The school now holds a basketball game benefitting breast cancer in her honor.” 

“My oldest daughter is a counselor at BHS, and my youngest is a teacher in WCS,” Mitchell said.  

 Maher’s four children are products of BHS—all played sports—and then attended schools such as Duke University. Three of Maher’s daughters even played basketball under Seigenthaler. 

“Coach Seigenthaler, Principal Keidel and the BHS staff are just tremendous,” Maher said.

 “Being an ambassador has been a fantastic experience. It’s a positive way to meet the needs of the school system, pitch in and bring something to the table.”

Posted on: 9/18/2013


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