John Benish, Sr.
Chief Executive Officer
John Benish, Sr., Chief Executive Officer, is the founder of Cook-Illinois Corporation and has more than 50 years’ experience in the contract school transportation industry. Beginning with Illinois School Bus Company, where Mr. Benish worked immediately after graduation from Purdue University, Cook-Illinois Corporation has grown to 18 school bus subsidiaries under his leadership.
John has served as President of the Metropolitan Transportation Association and on the Board of Directors of the National Student Transportation Association (NSTA). Over the years, he has received a number of awards, including Contractor of the Year from the Illinois Student Transportation Association and the Purdue School of Technology Distinguished Alumni Award. John is also a licensed Illinois school bus driver.
John Benish, Jr.
President and Chief Operating Officer
John Benish, Jr., President and Chief Operating Officer, has more than 25 years’ experience in the school transportation business. He started in the business as a teenager and has worked nearly every position in the family school bus business.
A Purdue University graduate with a Master’s Degree in Management from St. Xavier University, he leads the second generation of the Benish family in running the company. Overseeing all operations, he works with customers and the management team to ensure that customers’ needs are met.
He also pioneered Cook-Illinois Corporation’s ground-breaking moves toward greener transportation. Under his leadership, the company was the first in Illinois to voluntarily switch an entire bus fleet to bio diesel fuel. He also created the Clean Air Bus, the first-ever clean air mobile museum for children. The Clean Air Bus is now used as a hands-on learning tool for all serviced by Cook-Illinois Corporation. Always encouraging the company to be environmentally conscious, John made sure Cook-Illinois was first in line to purchase the first hybrid school bus in the State of Illinois as soon as they became available.
John is the past treasurer for the Illinois Student Transportation Association (ISTA), on the Board of the National Student Transportation Association (NSTA,) an active member of the National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the Illinois Association of Pupil Transportation (IAPT) and the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO). He also serves on the Board of Trustees for St. Xavier University.
A licensed Illinois school bus driver, he can still be spotted driving a school bus to keep in touch with the drivers and students.
Anthony Benish has served for more than 10 years as Cook-Illinois Corporation’s General Counsel. He received his undergraduate degree from Purdue University and his law degree from The John Marshall Law School. Tony began his law career working at the Cook County State Attorney’s office and moved on to a private practice handling personal injury cases. He then joined Cook-Illinois Corporation as part of the second generation of the Benish family on the management team. As General Counsel, Tony is responsible for all legal and risk management issues for all of the operating companies. He is a licensed Illinois school bus driver.
Vice President, Operations
Mr. Knoelke has worked in contracted student transportation for 19 years. A graduate of St. Joseph’s College with a Bachelor of Administration in Finance, Mr. Knoelke has held numerous positions in the student transportation business. He has been a School Bus Driver, a Safety Director, Assistant Manager, and an Operations Manager. Currently Vice President of Operations, Mr. Knoelke oversees the operations of our 18 operating terminals serving approximately 75 district contracts, in many cases of late, assisting districts with conversions to contracted student transportation. His responsibilities include working with the Regional Directors of Operations and Operation Managers for each of the companies to ensure that all facilities are providing quality service to our customers while operating efficiently and remaining fiscally responsible. He is an active member of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the Illinois Student Transportation Association (ISTA), the Illinois Association for School Business Officials (IASBO), the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), the Minnesota School Bus Operator’s Association (MSBOA), and the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO). Mr. Knoelke is a licensed Illinois school bus driver.
Vice President, Contracts and Bids
Mr. O’Sullivan has worked in contracted student transportation for 19 years. A graduate of Purdue University, Mr. O’Sullivan has held a number of executive level positions in the company, including Operations Manager, General Manager, and Vice President South Operations. Mr. O’Sullivan is now responsible for new business development including bidding contracts as well as negotiating the renewal of existing contracts. He is an active member of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the Illinois Student Transportation Association (ISTA), and the Illinois Association for School Business Officials (IASBO). Mr. O’Sullivan is a licensed Illinois school bus driver.
Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Fischer has 20 years of experience in various industries, including industrial services, consumer products, consulting, and contract medical device sterilization. He has held senior leadership positions in accounting and finance with Staveley Services, Boca Burger, Ernst & Young and Sterigenics and has extensive experience in US-based subsidiaries of foreign public companies, as well as venture capital and private equity sponsored companies.
Mr. Fischer earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters of Science degree in Accountancy from DePaul University. He is a Certified Public Accountant (registered in the state of Illinois).
Roger Bannerman, Fleet Manager, has more than 32 years experience in fleet maintenance. He has been a certified ASE Master Truck and School Bus Mechanic for over thirty years and is a State of Illinois Safety Lane Inspector.
A sought-after expert in school bus maintenance, Roger has authored diagnostic software for school bus maintenance facilities which he has copyrighted and is now being used across the country. During his tenure at Cook-Illinois Corporation, he has overseen the establishment of new maintenance facilities, managed the conversion of hundreds of school buses to run on natural gas and managed the retrofitting of more than 1,800 buses to run on environmentally-friendly bio diesel fuel.
Currently, Roger oversees the purchase of new school buses, replacement and repair parts for 18 Cook-Illinois maintenance shops, the body shop, the machine shop, the parts department and the maintenance of a fleet of more than 2,200 vehicles. He maintains a Class “A” Illinois Commercial Driver’s License.
Director of Information Technology
Doug Sikora, Manager, Information Technology, oversees all aspects of information technology for the Cook-Illinois Corporation corporate office, as well as all school bus subsidiaries and support facilities.
A graduate of the Purdue University School of Technology, Doug has more than 18 years of experience in computer software, information systems, computer hardware, data management and programming. Doug is also a licensed Illinois school bus driver.
Director of Operations, South Region
Jeff Barnes, Director of Operations for the South Region, started in the school busing business in 1990 at Frontier Coach / RichLee Vans – Chicago Ridge, where he worked as Assistant Manager and General Manager. In 2004, he was transferred to Crawford School Bus in Lockport, and then promoted to Regional Manager in 2006.
Since becoming Regional Manager, Jeff has worked on-site at many companies within the Cook-Illinois family, including Alpha School Bus, American School Bus, Illinois School Bus, and Kickert School Bus Lines.
Jeff currently oversees American School Bus – Frankfort, Alpha School Bus Company, Illinois School Bus Company, American School Bus – Orland Park, Kickert School Bus, Paige Bus Enterprises, and RichLee Vans in Chicago Ridge, . He is a member of the company’s Wellness Committee, and also works on the development and implementation of the company’s suite of operations software.
Director of Operations, North Region
David Armbrecht, Director of Operations, North Region, has been in school busing since 2003. He has worked in many positions, including Operations Manager at several Cook-Illinois Corporation company locations.
David currently oversees Cook County School Bus, RichLee Vans-Arlington Heights, North Shore Transit, Grand Prairie Transit-Elk Grove Village and Lakeside Transportation.
David earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Business from Trinity Christian College and a Masters in School Administration from Governors State University. He has his Type 75 and a Chief School Business Official Certificate. He is a member of Illinois ASBO. He is a certified instructor for the Regional Office of Education (Will County). He is a certified Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) instructor.