EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 12, 2014

School bigwigs take to the racetrack in big yellow buses

Ten superintendents drive toward a $10K cash prize

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
jmackenzie@eagletribune.com

---- — They’re pretty big deals in their respective school districts and next week 10 superintendents will be behind some pretty big wheels.

Fasten those seat belts. Sanborn Regional Superintendent Brian Blake, Londonderry Superintendent Nate Greenberg and Derry Superintendent Laura Nelson will take the wheel of some borrowed school buses Tuesday and hit the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Spectators presumably will be kept at a safe distance when the school officials try to steer those big yellow buses through an obstacle course of traffic cones and come out on top to claim a $10,000 prize for their district.

The three are among the 10 educational leaders signed up to drive in the 2014 Race to Benefit Education. Participation was by invitation, not application. Had it been the latter, at least two local superintendents might not have made the cut.

Neither Blake nor Greenberg can claim any bus driving experience, although both allege they have been at the wheel of a pretty big box truck, rented for moving purposes.

Well, that’s not quite true.

Greenberg admitted yesterday he had been taken out for a practice run several weeks ago, which could give him an edge.

Bus company employees gave him some tips and about 30 minutes behind the wheel behind Matthew Thornton Elementary, long after everyone else had left for the day, he said.

“There were no cars I could damage and nobody was there who would take a picture,” Greenberg said.

The contest will include maneuvering through “slaloms, a chicane, tight turns, narrow lanes, and a couple of trouble spots,” according to the racetrack, which is donating the cash prize.

Greenberg, while pooh-poohing his chances, was a little less modest when discussing how his practice run went.

“They had me backing up and I didn’t do too badly,” he said. “I think I only knocked down three cones — out of four.”

While he hasn’t spent too much time steering oversized vehicles, Greenberg does claim a “pretty good” driving record.

But then, he remembers, there was that summer of 1969 when he had a delivery route in midtown Manhattan. Perhaps those details are best kept private.

While Greenberg isn’t given to hyperbole when discussing his driving skills, he did reference the “9 million different mirrors” a school bus carries.

Blake described his driving record as “fast, but clean,” with an emphasis on the “clean.”

He said he’s never driven a bus, just one of those rental box trucks, but he’s not intimidated.

He said that before he mentioned another superintendent who reportedly once drove a school bus.

“I’m at a disadvantage with some of these guys,” Blake said, leaving Greenberg off that list.

But he does claim one advantage,

“I do live around the corner from the track, so I’m pretty familiar with it,” he said.

Greenberg claimed to have heard the same thing about a competitor with serious bus driving experience.

“If, in fact, it’s true, I want a handicap,” he said.

Kidding aside, both superintendents said they think it’s a terrific event and one they’re glad to be part of.

“Win, lose or draw, I think the 10 of us are going to have a good time doing it,” Blake said.

Should he could home with the big check, he said, he would like to spread his winnings among his district’s schools, with some of it going to the career pathways program at the high school.

Greenberg, should he overcome all odds and win, would use the money to buy iPads or laptops for students who can’t afford their own.

Nelson could not be reached for comment yesterday. No one would say whether she was behind closed doors or crushing traffic cones in the parking lot.

The other drivers are Manchester Assistant Superintendent David Ryan Franklin; Franklin High School principal Richard Towne; Rochester Superintendent Mike Hopkins; Concord Assistant Superintendent Matt Cashman; Goffstown Superintendent Brian Balke; Exeter Superintendent Mike Morgan; and Merrimack Valley Superintendent Mike Martin.

The event takes place at the track in Loudon at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.