No one knows Harlingen’s streets better than Ismael Cardenas.
Cardenas, or more commonly known as “Smiley,” is a dispatcher for the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District transportation department, and is in charge of coordinating bus routes for the district’s campuses.
“We make sure that all of our students have transportation to and from school,” Cardenas said. ”We also coordinate field trip and extracurricular activity transportation. Basically any time a student is on one of our buses we’ve planned it.”
Cardenas has worked with HCISD for over 18 years, and prior to working for the district he worked as a taxi driver in Harlingen for 10 years.
“I know these streets like the back of my hand,” Cardenas said. “It makes planning our routes go smoother, because I know the streets of Harlingen so well.”
The transportation department works throughout the year to make sure all of the district’s transportation needs are met. Occasionally that includes adjusting routes to accommodate the opening of new schools and facilities, he said.
“We’ve added the route to the new Memorial Middle School this year,” Cardenas said. “Our routes are set with the same stops and we’ve made some changes to add the new Memorial.”
The transportation department has already started planning for next year, which will mark the launch of the Ninth Grade Academy. In addition to getting routes ready for new campuses, the transportation department also prepares for natural disasters and emergency events.
“We are always thinking of events that may bring issues for our department,” Cardenas said. “Our number one goal when preparing for these events is to make sure our routes are effective and keeping our students safe.”
With the year just beginning, Cardenas and his team are always up for the challenge and curious to see what this year will bring, he said.