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April 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Special-needs pupil transporters go 'all out'


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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Over five days of conference sessions, three eight-hour companion programs and a roadeo, attendees of the 16th National Conference & Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers demonstrated that they are indeed “Going All Out!” (the event’s theme) in their jobs.

And, at the conclusion of the keynote address, there was no question that training at all levels is vital for pupil transportation personnel, including contractors, drivers and attendants.

In her keynote presentation, “Cynthia’s Legacy,” Stephanie Susavage (speaking publicly for the first time since the death of her daughter) offered well-considered thoughts on how training, and willingness to find answers when you need them, might have made a difference for 6-year-old Cynthia — and can make a difference for other children on the school bus every day.

In 1999, Cynthia died while being transported to school on a yellow bus when she was strangled by a harness that was being used for her for the first time. The makeshift harness was put on backwards, with the zipper in front, cutting off her ability to breathe after she slipped from the bus seat.

Picking up on the conference theme, the remainder of the morning’s general session offered “Answers You Need to Be Your Best,” in a setting reminiscent of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Six members of the conference faculty and advisory board offered answers to questions in six different categories. Faculty member Pauline Gervais, alias Ellen DeGervais, danced into the aisles to take questions from attendees.

In a break from sessions, a vendor-sponsored reception at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory saw attendees taking a crack at being their best in the batting cage and feasting on a ballpark menu of hot dogs and barbeque.

At Jefferson County Public Schools’ Nichols Garage, site of the 10th National Special-Needs Team Roadeo, 27 teams from 17 states went through the paces to demonstrate and learn skills.

Taking first place in the competition were Al Boyce and Janet Ulrich of Falcon (Colo.) School District 49. Second place went to Anthony “Tony” Nino and Joel Nino of San Benito (Texas) Consolidated Independent School District. Placing third was the husband/wife team of Scott and Myra Walstead from Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The roadeo is managed and administered by Edupro Group and the National Association for Pupil Transportation and hosted annually by the conference.

The 17th National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers will be held March 7-12, 2008, in Little Rock, Ark. Details are posted at www.eduprogroup.com.


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