The combined impact of the flagging economy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has created tax revenue shortfalls and forced public officials to scale back spending. And school bus operators, public and private, are feeling the pinch. That was one of the notes of concern registered at the 27th annual National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Conference and Trade Show in Nashville. “Last year I was asked to cut my budget by 10 percent and they’re asking for 5 percent more this year,” said Mike Byrne, transportation director at Parkway School District in Chesterfield, Mo. “At the same time, they’re asking us to increase services.” Byrne was among many school transportation professionals attending the conference who voiced concerns about budget cuts. Rich Hansen, transportation director at School Districts 47 and 155 in Crystal Lake, Ill., said he was fortunate even to be attending the conference because of administrative pressures to cut costs. “I’m just happy to be here,” he said. At the state level, revenue shortfalls are taking their toll on school transportation programs. In a report to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), Terry Voy, state pupil transportation director in Iowa, said state officials are being asked to consider charging a fee for school bus inspections conducted by his staff, reducing from two to one the number of annual inspections and going to electronic data recorders for field inspectors to save on printing and handling of forms. Florida’s state pupil transportation director, Charlie Hood, reported that an estimated $1.5 billion shortfall in state revenue has prompted many school districts to impose travel restrictions and hiring freezes. He said several statewide transportation meetings and workshops have been canceled. Despite these financial concerns, the mood of the conference was light. The Opryland Hotel, which also hosted the NAPT’s annual meeting in 1996, proved to be a popular site location. The hotel and convention center are under the same roof, which was convenient both for the delegates and the more than 110 exhibitors who displayed their products and services during the two-day trade show. The occasion was marked by the passing of the gavel from NAPT President Bob Pape, transportation director at Lawrence (N.Y.) Public Schools, to President-elect Don Paull of Capital Bus Sales in Leander, Texas. Paull begins a two-year term. Steve Kalmes, transportation director at Anchorage School District in Alaska, is the new president-elect. The learning curve
The NAPT’s educational program addressed a series of diverse issues. School violence, federal regulatory developments, driver recruitment and retention, 15-passenger vans and behavior management were among the topics covered. In addition, NAPT/TSI (Transportation Safety Institute) training workshops were offered each day of the conference. Topics included “Managing the Media,” “Crisis Communication,” “Media Relations,” “Overseeing a Fleet Maintenance Program,” “Team Building,” “Presentation Skills,” “Professional Demeanor,” “National Legal and Regulatory Issues in Pupil Transportation” and “Special Education.” For more information about the training program, call (800) 989-NAPT. Violence prevention
Christopher Dorn, a 17-year-old student at Central High School in Macon, Ga., performed a concealed weapons demonstration by pulling 53 different lethal weapons from his typical teen clothing. His goal was to show attendees what type of student clothing is conducive to weapons concealment and how to identify signs of concealed weapons. Requiring shirts to be tucked in is one way to alleviate hiding spots, said Dorn. Clear or mesh backpacks, which many schools are now requiring to reduce a student’s ability to hide weapons or drugs, are not effective deterrents, he said, as there are still many ways to conceal weapons in them. Among the weapons Dorn had hidden on his body were a folding machete, a blackjack, a crucifix knife, a school ID with a knife taped to the back, a razor blade in his mouth, a grenade, a sword and more. “Most of these weapons were taken out of schools and are commonly found in schools,” said Dorn. Dorn showed a video instructing attendees in visual screening techniques that help identify people concealing weapons. Here is some of what to look for.