Set 5 achievable goals for the coming year

Steve Hirano, Editor
Posted on December 1, 2002

No one warns you about how fast the years tumble by as you grow older. Each year gets behind us more quickly than the last. Psychologists probably have a complicated explanation for this phenomenon. If so, I’d like to hear them explain why cross-country airline flights still seem as long as ever.

In any case, as this year winds down, I thought it would be appropriate to offer some encouragement for 2003. The following five suggestions are not intended to provoke major transformations at your operation. A few of them are actually rather obvious. But it’s surprising how often we need to repeat the obvious before it sinks in. If these goals don’t inspire you, set some of your own and stick by them.

1. Leave no stone unturned
I “borrowed” this piece of wisdom from a workshop presented by Lenny Bernstein, transportation director at North Rockland Central School District in New York, at the recent National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference and trade show in Greensboro, N.C.

Lenny was referring to the lessons learned from a tragic school bus-train crash in Congers, N.Y., on March 24, 1972, that left five children dead. For my purposes, I’m referring to the entire spectrum of preparation that goes into running a safe, efficient operation. Supervisors must pay attention to detail every day. They can never put their operations on “cruise control.” Lives can be lost when people lower their guards and allow complacency to set in.

2. Get everyone off the bus
There’s no such thing as a no-brainer in pupil transportation. But this one comes close. Constantly remind your drivers and attendants to check the bus for sleeping children at the end of every run.

At the aforementioned NAPT meeting, I heard numerous horror stories of children being left on school buses. One person told me about a child who was found wandering alone on a busy highway, hours after he had been abandoned by his driver.

Use whatever tactics you have at your disposal to reinforce the importance of looking for children both on and under the seats. With winter coming, I would hate to hear about a child frostbitten, or worse, because of a lapse on the part of his or her bus driver.

3. Go to an industry meeting
Because of tight school district finances, many transportation departments have seen their travel budgets slashed over the past couple of years. As a result, the sharing of information through networking, workshops and trade shows has been curtailed.

This flow of information is critical to the development of the industry, especially at the local level. It’s key to understanding regulatory issues, sharing best practices and getting answers to thorny questions.

If you didn’t attend a local, state, regional or national conference this year, you should really consider registering for a meeting in 2003.

4. Learn about lap/shoulder belts
Compartmentalization ain’t broke, so why fix it? That’s an understandable reaction to the stir about lap/shoulder belts on large school buses. Although California is the only state that has a mandate requiring lap/shoulder belts in new buses (beginning in 2004 and 2005), other states are sure to follow.

Let’s face it, the writing is on the wall. The best response is to learn about these systems and prepare for the day when your buses will have them.

5. Expect the best from everyone
What I’m trying to say here is that managers need to be optimists, even when the situation doesn’t warrant it. Enthusiasm is contagious. Set awesome goals for everyone in your operation and convince them that they can be achieved. There is real courage in optimism. Don’t be afraid to embrace it.

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