Messalonskee School District's fleet includes 33 school buses. The buses cover more than 170 square miles to serve six schools and 1,700 students.
Growth Has Dramatic Impact
Messalonskee School District
Lennie Goff, transportation director at Messalonskee School District in Oakland, Maine, became a bus driver for the district 19 years ago and figured he’d stay for one year. That year has stretched into nearly two decades.
“I discovered it was my niche,” he says. “I enjoyed being with the kids, and one thing led to another.”
Goff, who was named supervisor in 1989 and then director in 1994, says he’s seen a lot of growth in the area during his tenure. “In the last couple of decades, it’s gone from a farming community to bedroom community and suburbia. We went from being one of the smallest districts in the area to one of the largest,” he says.
That expansion has had a dramatic impact on the bus operation. “We’ve gone from a mom-and-pop operation to big business,” Goff says. The growth forced him to abandon the pin-and-string method of routing and to embrace computerization. He chose VersaTrans routing and scheduling software and has been impressed with the results. “We cut 22,000 miles the first year,” he says. “We paid for the software the first year we used it.”
The district operates 33 buses to transport 1,700 students. It employs three full-time mechanics to service its own fleet, as well as 14 buses for a neighboring district “We think of all 47 buses as our fleet,” Goff says.
Although he’s proud of his fleet, Goff’s even prouder of his employees. “You could have the best equipment in the world, but if you don’t have the best employees, it won’t work,” he says. “They make the fleet.” He also credits the district’s administration for giving him the tools he needs to run a top-notch operation.
Safety is a particular strength at Messalonskee. Two years ago, Goff hired a safety coordinator to fill in the “missing piece” of his program. He says he knew that the operation was good, but there was still room to improve driver training. “Now I feel like we’re on the cutting edge,” he says.
Goff is a strong advocate of regionalization and has been an influential force in a five-district alliance in central Maine. The alliance works together on bulk purchasing and also shares best practices, such as routing and scheduling, maintenance and driver training.
“Through the efforts of Lennie and his staff, this group of five relatively large school districts has significantly improved the efficiency of their transportation operations while improving the safety and quality of their transportation services,” says Harvey Boatman, pupil transportation specialist for the Maine Department of Education.
Goff is also a strong proponent of networking and has been a member of the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation for the past 15 years. His participation has been much more robust over the past three years. He became a member of the association’s board of directors in 2005 and currently serves as vice president.
Like most exemplary transportation programs, Messalonskee’s has a deep-seated sense of family. “We work, we laugh and we cry together,” Goff says. “When one of us hurts, we all hurt. This is a team effort. That shines above everything else.”
— STEVE HIRANO
Students transported daily: 1,700
Schools served: 6
Total students in district: 2,578
Area of service: 172 square miles
Average driver wage: $14.32/hour