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December 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

NASDPTS Examines Array of National, State Issues

At its annual meeting, the state directors association discussed a wide range of issues, including the National Congress on School Transportation, hurricane preparedness and federal directives.

by Steve Hirano, Editor


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Helping to keep school districts in communication with each other for school transportation purposes was the emergency contact list compiled by the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation, Kennington said. “It’s one of the most important things you can have.”

Ronnie McCallister, assistant director of school transportation management for the Florida Department of Education, said his state has faced eight major hurricanes in the past 14 months, prompting transportation officials to create emergency plans and procedures.

Foremost, he said, is maintaining an adequate supply of fuel, especially for what could be a recovery period of several days. “It’s important to order fuel early and top off tanks no later than 72 hours [before the hurricane],” he said. “Ships carrying fuel will discontinue serving the ports about 48 hours from landfall of the storm.”

Communication is also an essential consideration in a hurricane. McCallister cautioned against relying on cellular service. “We’ve found the 800 MHz radios are the most dependable form of communication,” he said.

Reflections on 3 points
Derek Graham, North Carolina’s state pupil transportation director, and Jeff Tsai, director of pupil transportation at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, discussed the ongoing testing of three-point belt systems in 13 buses in North Carolina.

The buses, which are divided among 11 school districts, were placed into service in January 2003. The seating options were three-two or two-two. Use of the restraint systems was not mandated.

In a survey of parents, 56 percent said they felt “much more positive” about the safety of the belt-equipped buses, while 18 percent said they felt “somewhat more positive.” About 26 percent said they felt about the same.

Drivers of the buses estimated about 50 to 70 percent of elementary pupils used the belts, while use among middle and high school students was almost non-existent.

A survey of principals found that they generally ascribed an improvement in behavior to the buses. But the principals also said they did not expect that the addition of three-point systems would increase ridership.

SNAC activities
In addition to the state directors, several members of the State and National Association Council (SNAC) attended the meeting.

Several breakout sessions were directed at SNAC members, including a workshop on association marketing by Robert Bookout, safety manager and emergency management coordinator for the Katy (Texas) Independent School District and founder and director emeritus of the Texas Schools Risk Managers Association.

Bookout said that associations interested in bolstering membership should identify key benefits that they provide.

Associations should try to offer services such as certification programs and training, Bookout said. But the key to a successful membership drive is having a dedicated person at the helm who understands how to use word of mouth, e-mail, newsletters and direct mail.

David Peterson, communications officer for the Minnesota Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), provided his insights on revenue-generating ideas for pupil transportation associations.

Peterson, who’s also transportation analyst for St. Paul Public Schools, said the association generates revenue through sales of safety and training products such as videos and DVDs.

One animated video, “The Safety Squadron Is Riding the Bus,” cost about $26,000 to produce, Peterson said. To date, about 800 copies have been sold at $50 each. The video is available in English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali.

The association uses its Website, www.mnapt.org to market its products. For example, a 30-second preview of the Safety Squadron can be downloaded at the Website. The full video can then be ordered through the Website.

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