A Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) school bus that was tagged with graffiti Halloween weekend was promptly cleaned up by a bus driver and some Good Samaritans.

CUSD bus driver Natalie Lemos says her husband was on a hunting trip Oct. 31 when he noticed that her bus, parked in a lot at Railroad Flat Road and Blizzard Mine Road in Wilseyville, had been vandalized with spray paint. Lemos, who drives Route 17 and transports children from elementary school-age to high school-age, promptly notified Transportation Supervisor Tessie Reeder.

Reeder said she was planning to drive the defaced bus down to the CUSD yard to exchange and retrieve another bus before school started on Monday, but the situation was resolved by another bus driver and some helpful passersby.

Bus driver Sandra Flores has worked for CUSD for just four months, but she and her husband, Raymond, didn’t hesitate to step up when needed. The couple, who lives nearby in Wilseyville, showed up with a bucket of soap and water and some grout cleaner, and got to work. Soon, they were joined by another couple who were just “passing by.”

Flores doesn’t know their names but says they were from the Buckhorn area in Amador County. The unidentified husband had some Windex in his vehicle, and the foursome made quick work of the job, cleaning off all paint within about 45 minutes.

“It’s such a relief that (the paint) came off. It could have been a paint job,” Reeder said.

As for Lemos, who was taking care of her sick child and couldn’t be there to help, she is more than grateful that her bus was spotless for her route the following day.

“I went from a broken heart to a lot of joy,” Lemos said. “There’s tough times and a lot of crimes going on up here… but the outcome was wonderful, the fact that the community came together and washed it off.”

Lemos was able to thank Flores when she ran into her at work, she said.

According to Reeder, school busses have parked at the Wilseyville location for 20 years and have had several—but not frequent—incidents of vandalism and diesel fuel theft.

Flores, who has fostered teenagers, says she understands young people wanting to express themselves and hopes the community can offer a “more positive” outlet for struggling youth, such as commissioned murals.

“If (kids) want to be seen with their art, make a commitment to do something worthy—not just tagging,” she said.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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