LAWRENCE: It’s really incumbent on us to make sure that we have the policies and the procedures. Years ago, it was OK to just say, “Do you know anything about transportation? Hop in and fly by the seat of your pants.” It was very informal.
We’ve always had five mechanics. If Joe retires, well, we hire another one. We should be running like a business. People aren’t beating the doors down to join this industry, so it’s even more important that we get this stuff set up. So if someone comes in who doesn’t have a transportation background, they can look and say, “Oh, this is the procedures manual, this is the background, this is the history.” And unfortunately in our industry, people are so busy that they don’t take the time to write out the policy. One of the things I’m working on is literally a policies and procedures manual. That’s something administrators should strive for, to make sure everything’s there.
Chris Ellison is director of transportation at Greater Albany (Ore.) Public Schools and president of the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association.
ELLISON: I agree with that somewhat. I’m coming up from a different generation, where I’m relatively new as a director — starting my fifth year. I’ve been in the industry for going on 15 years now. If you would have asked me right out of college, with a business administration degree, if I would be driving a school bus, I would have said, “No — you’re crazy.” But I fell in love with the industry. There are people out there that will bring a new set of ideas, kind of like I did with Greater Albany Public Schools. A lot of them were positive; some of them didn’t fly. You learn and move forward. We’ve got to adapt. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to listen to up-and comers.
I think it’s absolutely critical that we do find the people that share that passion, that interest. They are out there, and it should be a concern if we don’t find them.
SHIELDS: One of the things that is just paramount in our jobs: We oftentimes view our jobs as being in the trenches, but where we need to be is up the hill. We need to be saying, “What are the needs of this operation? What are the needs of the future facility and people and resources?” And succession planning is one of them. There’s several people that can step in and pick up the pieces of what I do. Not all of them could do all of it right now, but certainly our operation would continue. And so we’ve tried to do that with each position in our operation with the cross training and the sustainability — growing your own, creating an environment where there’s synergy, where people want to learn.
MESLIN: That’s what’s so neat about NAPT’s LED [Leading Every Day] program. It’s focused on raising the next generation of leaders in our industry. When people are in positions of leadership — either by choice or by circumstance — we want them to have the tools they need to do a quality job.