As part of our ongoing series Meet Our GDS Faculty and Staff, we are excited to present: Meet Chris France!
Read the Q&A below to learn more about Chris.
Primary Roles: Transportation Director
Years with GDS: Chris has been part of the GDS community for 27 years, originally as a driver for O’Brien Bus Service. He began in his current role as a paid consultant four years later, in 2000, and was onboarded as an official employee in 2003—which brings us to this big milestone year for Chris. Welcome to the 20+ Year Club*!
Before we learn more about you, we have two questions that might help the GDS community differentiate between the two transportation Chris’s!
What are your top “Nope, that’s the other Chris!” items?
Adding money to MetroCards, assigning parking spaces to students, and asking for any exemptions to the carpool rule. Not me!
What’s your top “That’s me!” item from your job that you want people to know?
Questions about bus routes, booking buses for field trips, and help to find items left on buses, as well as questions, compliments, or complaints (hopefully not!) about buses operating for GDS. That’s me!
And now, tell us what you love about GDS.
I love that GDS is a place that values diversity. The relationship between the students and staff is unique—I'm actually a fan of being called Chris instead of "Mr. France." I also love watching how dedicated the teachers and coaches are to making sure that students get the best experience possible.
Why do you do your job?
I'm a bit of a bus nerd and enjoy problem-solving when it comes to logistics. I love being a small invisible part of making some of GDS's more unique learning experiences happen. Transportation is like plumbing. You don't notice it's there unless something goes wrong. Every day that we move students to and from school, deliver athletes to and from practices and games, and get everyone to and from field trips and events and no one notices anything out of the ordinary is a success.
A favorite part of your job?
I've come to like big moves. Anything out of the ordinary that almost seems impossible, like moving all of the HS students to their overnights the week before school starts. Anything that requires a bit of planning. I also love that I do a bit of everything. On any given day, I'm apt to be a supervisor, student greeter, mechanic, dispatcher, and bus driver. I love the fact that I still get to drive on a regular basis. I like to say that I'd never ask anything of a driver that I wouldn't be willing and able to do myself.
Your work style in three words?
Safety. Efficiency. Fun.
Other GDS activities or roles that community members may not know about?
Chris has been a guest speaker to HS American history classes about early American railroading.
A top hope/wish for your students and/or colleagues?
That they find success in whatever they do and always appreciate their bus drivers.
I've always been into trains. My love of buses actually stemmed from that. I've worked as a part-time railroader since I was 19. I currently volunteer at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore as a locomotive engineer and work one weekend a month at the Valley Railroad/Essex Steam Train in Connecticut (where my family lives) as a steam locomotive engineer/fireman.
Something you accomplished that you can proudly share?
Becoming qualified to operate a steam locomotive. I had the opportunity to operate the second oldest still-operating locomotive in the world, built in 1856.
Tell us about your family.
In October 2022, I married my now-husband Bryan. I remain very close with my three brothers and their families, including two sisters-in-law, one nephew, four nieces, and another niece or nephew on the way. I spend time with them in Connecticut whenever possible.
One thing about yourself your students/colleagues/others probably don't know?
I've been driving buses for over 30 years, beginning when I was 18. I started my freshman year in college at the University of Maryland College Park driving for the student-operated shuttle system.
One thing on your life "bucket list" you've already accomplished?
Arriving at my own wedding ceremony at the throttle of a steam engine.
One thing on your life “bucket list” you have yet to accomplish?
Driving one of the mobile lounges at Dulles International Airport.
With a tip from Chris, we reached out to hear what a colleague had to say...
Athletic director David Gillespie—who works with Chris to deliver athletes to several hundred games and practices each season—had this to say about his colleague:
“Chris puts in countless hours making sure the faculty and students have the transportation they need for field trips, athletic events, and even getting to and from school every day. He is so good at this job that most community members do not realize the amount of scheduling and coordination it takes to make it all run smoothly. He does this all with a kind demeanor and a wonderful sense of humor—from the way he greets the students and families in the morning with a warm smile to the many interactions with GDS families. Chris is also a great friend to so many and is always there to lend a hand or offer advice.”
High School history teacher Sue Ikenberry added, “Chris is the essence of reliability. He gets it all done, in a way that's exactly right—exactly what we need. As a person, Chris is simply amazing. His work for the B&O museum, giving tours, and driving steam trains is tremendous. Every year I've asked him to come to my U.S. history class and talk about the history of trains. He knows everything and makes it into a presentation that informs students about the importance of railroads to the industrialization of this country in a way that's spirited and fun. Lastly, he loves his family and his friends in a way that few others I know really do."
*An esteemed group of 113 current and former faculty members who have given 20 or more years of service to the School. We thank them for their combined 73.2 million years of service to GDS!