Howell You Get Home? Donovan Howell: The Man Behind Your Ride.


Mr. Howell sitting in his office at the Phipps building.

Luke Goodman

There are over 6,000 students in the Great Neck School District who ride the bus. These long, yellow behemoths complete pick-ups and drop-offs every day without fail, yet we have no clue who tells those buses to be there. Who is there to ensure that kids in this district arrive at school safe and on time, and arrive home in the same way?

That person would be Donovan Howell, South High School graduate and supervisor of transportation for the Great Neck School District. Mr. Howell has had this job for about six months, but his contributions to the Great Neck School District began 37 years ago. Just two years after graduating from Alfred State College with a degree in automotive technology, Mr. Howell became the swimming pool and boiler operator for South Middle and High School. He remained in this position for eight years, until the promotional position of bus dispatcher/inspector was up for grabs. Mr. Howell thought that he’d be perfect for the job. And, merely judging by the amount of time he remained in this position (29 years to be exact), he was. The position requires direct contact with bus drivers and coordinating the schedules and hours of all drivers. Although he’d grown fond of the dispatcher/inspector position over the years, he knew it was time to make a change when Great Neck’s Supervisor of Transportation position became available earlier this year. In April of 2022, Mr. Howell took on the position. 

As supervisor, Mr. Howell oversees all transportation for the Great Neck School district, including but not limited to public and private schools, as well as schools that teach intellectually disabled students. This involves contacting and contracting our school’s designated bus company: WeTransport. This company supplies school buses to over 107 different schools. Through WeTransport, the Great Neck School district is provided with approximately 165 buses in total, 65 large and 100 small. Howell is constantly communicating with bus drivers, mechanics, WeTransport, and the assistant superintendent of business, who is his boss. In addition, Mr. Howell is the person who handles all complaints about school-bus transportation. These complaints range anywhere from overcrowding on a bus, to buses taking too long getting children home. “It’s hard to make everyone happy, but it really is rewarding knowing that these kids are getting home safe and sound,” Mr. Howell said. The passion he has for his job is what makes him so good at it. During our interview, he was able to name my bus number and the name of my bus driver just by knowing the street that I lived on. 

Outside of work, Mr. Howell spends his spare time working on cars. If anyone is made for the role of transportation supervisor, it’s a guy who knows his way around a vehicle. When he’s not changing oil or repairing a muffler, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, as well as his grandson, who is currently a first grader at Lakeville Elementary School. “I live to serve the community,” he said, “putting a smile on other people’s faces puts a smile on mine.”