BILOXI, Miss. — For parents searching for a first-class school system for their children, the presence of a first-rate transportation department is an important factor.
Biloxi Public Schools holds a leading role with a Blue Ribbon high school, a designation given by the U.S. Department of Education. Equally significant, the district has achieved the ASE’s Blue Seal of Excellence for its school bus repair operation.
To qualify for the honor, at least 75 percent of the technicians performing diagnosis and repairs at an operation must be ASE certified. At least one technician must be certified in each area of service offered.
The maintenance staff members at Biloxi Public Schools have endured ASE’s rigorous, closed-book exams, testing their knowledge and skills in several areas of expertise. They met the Blue Seal of Excellence standards for school buses in January and received a plaque to hang in their facility.
When the district inquired about how many other public school transportation departments in the U.S. have been recognized with the Blue Seal honor, ASE determined that Biloxi was the only one.
Sam Bailey, the district’s transportation director, said it could be that there are other school bus operations that qualify for the designation but don’t realize it. He encourages others to pursue it.
“We certify our drivers; maybe we should look at certifying more of our technicians,” Bailey said. “There is a demand for competent repair technicians.”
Biloxi Public Schools’ transportation department services all of its own fleet of more than 100 vehicles and pieces of equipment. The fleet includes school buses, police vehicles, utility trucks and vans, cars for driver’s education, and grounds-keeping equipment for light-duty construction and lawn services.
The age of the motorized fleet ranges from new to 13 years. Bailey said that time efficiency and repair proficiency are both imperative to maintaining such a diverse fleet.
The Biloxi transportation department is managed and operated by an experienced team. Bailey is a former ASE master- certified technician and a 23-year veteran transportation manager.
Richard Davis, mechanic manager, has 24 years of vehicle and equipment repair experience. He also retains an ASE master school bus technician certification.
Rounding out the repair staff are Frank Carroll, Steve Dye and Ken Hammersmith — all ASE-certified technicians.
Bailey said that the team maintains an average in-service rate of 97 percent for their vehicles and equipment. Along with the department’s ASE honors, Bailey said that this helps in giving parents peace of mind and contributes to an orderly and safe education environment.