Being a hero does not always mean a person has to wear a uniform. They don’t all wear capes and chances are nobody is going to make a movie after them. In fact, many heroes don’t seem to think what they do is a big deal, that they are simply doing what needs to be done. A good example of this can be seen in Elsberry R-II School Districts Head Mechanic Paul LaBanca, who has spent approximately 30-years ensuring the safe travel of the communities students.
“His dedication goes far beyond vehicle maintenance,” said Elsberry School Districts Transportation Director Fay Mayes. “The shop and its grounds are always immaculate. He treats the staff with respect and kindness and he always comes to work with a great attitude.”
According to Mayes, the districts safety and inspection records are outstanding and it is owed to LaBanca, who comes in at 6:30 a.m. every morning, every evening and almost every Saturday to make sure the buses are well kept.
“Our State mandated inspection rates are one of the best in the state, with 90 percent or better for the last 18-years; 13 of those at 100 percent,” Mayes said. “This is a huge accomplishment for someone who works part-time and alone most of the time.”
LaBanca said his daily routine consists of getting to the Bus Barn at approximately 6:30 a.m. to make sure the buses get out the door. He then leaves and heads to his other job where he works as a body shop manager at Marquitz Motors in Troy. After handling all his duties there he returns to the Bus Barn where he again makes sure the buses are all in working order. He said drivers will typically leave him a note or a write up sheet if something needs to be fixed and will stick around until it’s done. However, he also comes in on Saturday’s to do all the weekly maintenance that is required.
“I would have to say my proudest moment is just taking pride in my work and doing all I can to make sure the buses are in the best shape possible,” LaBanca said. “If the buses were made like they were 20-years ago there is no way I could do any of this on my own, I would have to have help.”
LaBanca said it’s rewarding to him because he doesn’t have to lose sleep at night thinking he has kids riding around in something unsafe, because their not.
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