Sue Ward is a boon to wherever she puts her efforts and there’s no school site more appreciative than Cloverland Elementary where she volunteers in the classroom and in the traffic patrol.
Ward moved to Oakdale after retiring from the Manteca school district with 31 years behind her, and found her next calling quite by accident.
“My 12-year-old granddaughter was crossing at E Street and Johnson when a big rig almost flattened her,” Ward said. “That was when I started guiding traffic. Someone has to help keep these kids safe.”
Ward quickly put her skills to work, purchased bright orange vests, designed a specific logo identifying the traffic patrol volunteers, bought new whistles and had badges made. What started out as dangerous chaos during morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups has been transformed to a streamlined process that’s not only safe but efficient — all thanks to Ward’s leadership and guidance.
“I’m here from 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and then 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.,” Ward said. “There’s a major difference in how things are run now. The children are secure; there’s no more double/triple parking and no U-turns. When you see kids on bikes getting hit by cars you know something has to change.”
Admittedly, the change wasn’t immediately met with warm and fuzzies.
“At first some parents opposed the change,” she said. “I’ve been flipped off and called names and it’s their kids I’m keeping safe. It doesn’t matter what they think, though, because it doesn’t make a difference whose kid it is, they all need to be kept safe.”
Ward said there is a cluster of parents who seem to enjoy making trouble but overall, the support behind her is overwhelming.
“I’ve had great support from teachers and the principal. They’re behind me 100 percent,” Ward said.
And who wouldn’t be? Ward single-handedly took a potentially hazardous situation and transformed it into something that runs like a well-oiled machine, much like Michael Keaton’s character in the ‘80s classic film “Mr. Mom.” Now she has volunteers who help shoulder the load, including Tracy Amor, who keep things moving safely, efficiently and pleasantly.
And Cloverland Elementary parents and administrators aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed Ward’s magic touch. Fair Oaks Elementary sent Ward a plea to help them set up a similar plan for their school site.
What makes it worth all the aggravation and personal sacrifice? Ward has an easy answer.
“The kids. When I’m crossing those kids and they hug me because I’m their Miss Sue and I help keep them safe…it doesn’t get any better than that,” Ward said. “In the winter they would bring me hot chocolate and the parents and children would say ‘good job!’. It’s a nice feeling.”
Even though her granddaughter is moving on to junior high, Ward isn’t going anywhere.
“I plan to stay right where I’m at. These kids need me,” she said.
Ward attributes the success of the program to an incredible support system in her husband, her team of volunteers, and the school administration.
Ward also volunteers in the Special Day Class.
Do you know of a volunteer who is out in the community making a difference? Please contact The Oakdale Leader to nominate that extra special person so they can receive the kudos they deserve.