FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Most Virginia transportation operations were not directly affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. That was not the case in northern Virginia near the Pentagon. For example, as the planes began to strike, Fairfax County had already delivered students to schools and subsequently had about 4,000 students and 100 buses on a field trip at the International Children's Festival held at Wolf Trap Park. Bus drivers were alerted and quickly returned students from across the county to their respective schools as a safety and security measure. Arlington and Alexandria were finishing delivering students to schools and had their drivers return to their compounds to be on standby in case they were needed. Students were not evacuated or returned home early. This would only have created more gridlock and confusion. They were "sheltered in place" at school. Schools throughout the region were the "safe havens" for anxious students and staff as the events of the day unraveled. Along with the students, bus drivers, attendants, teachers and other school staff were concerned as they had family, friends and neighbors who were potentially endangered and about whom they could get no information. Despite their fear and anxiety, transportation and school staff rose to the need. They managed to focus on the safety of the students in their care. They realized that they had to provide the added measure of compassion and security for the children who were terrified of what they were hearing and seeing all around them. That may not equate to rushing into a burning building to rescue people, but it's a remarkable display of courage, compassion and dedication nonetheless. Some parents came to schools to take their children home. Some parents brought their pre-schoolers to school to wait, so they were not alone, or so that school staff could take charge of the youngsters while a parent went to inquire about a missing spouse. For Arlington County it was more dramatic. They were close enough to witness the smoke and flames of the burning Pentagon building. They also had to deal with the resulting roadblocks and congestion in the immediate area of the Pentagon. Firefighters from across the region responded to assist in fighting the fire and searching for survivors. What you may not know is that school buses and school bus drivers from across the region helped to shuttle relief crews around the clock to and from the Pentagon as well. America remembers that fateful day from many different perspectives. It is not a day we wish to remember for our actions in transportation, but it is a day we must remember in respect to those who gave or lost so much. By Tim Parker, assistant transportation director at Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools.
MONTGOMERY & HOWARD COUNTY, Md. — Plans to meet the No Child Left Behind Act this fall are being held up by new federal regulations that call for parents to be given the option of more than one well-performing school when more than one has been identified. Ahead of the curve in attempts to meet school choice requirements, Montgomery and Howard counties laid the foundation in May for a program that would pair each low-performing school in the district with a high-performing school to which students could transfer. According to the Washington Post, a month after the districts announced their pairing plan, U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige issued a letter "strongly encouraging" districts to "provide several choice options for parents." "These changes come too late for us. And we don't want to be moving kids after school starts. If they say we have to, obviously, we'll comply. But this is frustrating," said Patti Caplan, spokesperson for the Howard County School District. Maryland state officials plan to contact federal officials to determine if more choices must be offered immediately or if the paired-school program can go forward this year while an alternate plan is drawn up for next year.
NYE COUNTY, Nev. — After being charged with hijacking a school bus and plotting to blow up his high school, a 15-year-old student from Pahrump, Nev., will be tried as an adult. If convicted, Freddie Blodgett III could face more than 50 years in an adult prison. Blodgett is accused of hijacking the bus with a samurai sword on April 29 and then leading authorities on a high-speed chase before crashing the vehicle near the Nevada-California state line. He is awaiting trial in an adult holding facility.
Is there still a great deal of ignorance among motorists with regard to proper procedures for stopping for a loading/unloading school bus? How can we better educate the public? Massive ad campaign necessary
Here in New York, the state police have started a campaign with a lot of exposure on television, radio and in print about people wearing seatbelts. It's called "Click it or Ticket." I think we need something like this to educate the public about when they need to stop for a school bus. Locally we need to use the media to get our message across, while enlisting the help of parents, students and everyone in the community. I would like to see school bus drivers involved in more community events such as children's fairs, where we could promote our safety message as often as possible. We are in this occupation for the sake of the children, and it is our mission to keep them safe while they are in our care.
School Bus Driver
Gloversville (N.Y.) Enlarged
Media needs to pitch in
I am a state-certified driver trainer and a certified DMV third-party tester. I post safety messages and slogans every day at my depot and re-evaluate my drivers twice a year to ensure that they are not picking up bad habits. Still, after approaching our local newspaper and radio station, the best I could get them to do was say, "It's that time of year again, watch out for those kids walking and biking to school." They feel like they are doing their civic duty, and that is the last you hear from them until a child is hit crossing the street in front of a school bus.
School Bus Driver/Driver Trainer
Woodburn, Ore. Utilize state, local authorities
Here in Ohio we get a form from the state highway patrol for the purpose of reporting motorists who pass stopped school buses. We have also been contacting the local police or sheriff's department when this happens and reporting it to them. This has led to several cases of people being cited and fined. I have also contacted law enforcement when I notice areas with a high concentration of illegally passing motorists. The authorities will then post officers in those areas to watch for such behavior.
Miami County (Ohio) Board of MR/DD Bus signs, law enforcement help
Florida school buses now come with a statement on the back in six-inch black letters that says: STOP WHEN RED LIGHTS FLASH! Motorists seem to understand that. Of course, it's no guarantee. I still think law enforcement is the biggest issue. State and local authorities have a lot on their plate, but they need to make room for this issue and teach the public that they will be fined, suspended or ticketed if they are caught. As I see it, that and not much else will slow down the folks that run by our buses.
Assistant Director of Transportation
School District of Palm Beach County
West Palm Beach, Fla. For more on the topic of illegal passing, see "Campaign Essentials: Spreading the Word About Stop-Arm Running," in this issue.
CHICAGO — At its 38th annual convention in Chicago in July, the National School Transportation Assn. (NSTA) honored several members of the industry for their commitment and contributions to pupil transportation. The following people and organizations were recognized: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
Peter B. Slone
Slone served as a NSTA lobbyist for more than 17 years, working tirelessly to represent the industry before Congress. HALL OF FAME AWARD
John R. Edney
Edney fostered an atmosphere of professionalism and integrity during his more than 30 years in pupil transportation. Before retiring in 2001, he was vice president and chief development officer for Durham Transportation in Austin, Texas. Richard Wolfington
Wolfington, president of Wolfington Body Co. in Exton, Pa., was honored for his more than 38 years of leadership and commitment to the industry. GOLDEN MERIT AWARD
Percy L. Abbott
Abbott, vice president of safety for First Student Inc., distinguished himself at the state and national levels with his knowledge, leadership, creativity and motivation in support of the school bus industry. Benjamin Bus Inc.
Benjamin Bus Inc. in Northfield, Minn., was recognized for its professional service, excellence in management and devotion to safety. It has a perfect safety and inspection record. Robert E. Ramsdell
Ramsdell, vice president of safety education and development for Durham School Services, was recognized for his passion for safety and his belief that everyone in the firm is accountable. Nancy C. Shelton
Shelton is terminal manager for Beck Bus Transportation in Mt. Vernon, Ill. Her experience as a bus driver gives her an appreciation of other drivers' needs, and her leadership benefits the community. THOMAS BUILT BUSES CONTINUING EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH GRANT
Karen V. Sanders
Sanders works for Paige Bus Enterprises in Riverdale, Ill., where she pioneered a customer relations program and has shown leadership in the industry and her community.
COLUMBUS, Ind. — Cummins Inc. announced that its medium-duty ISB engine has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 5.9-liter ISB is the second of the company's engines to comply with new emissions standards that will go into effect Oct. 1. Cummins plans to release a full product line before that date. In April, the heavy-duty ISX became the first Cummins engine to receive EPA certification for the new standards.
Melody Campbell-Goeken credits school bus drivers with her 6-year-old son's love of school. "These people make his day," says Campbell-Goeken. Their enthusiastic greetings help get him off to a happy start each day. But their attention does more than put him in a good mood. Even brief interaction, if meaningful, can make a child feel "connected." Studies show that kids who feel they matter to others do better in all areas of life. So how can a bus driver transporting large numbers of children make a difference in each child's life? Any caring adult who is genuinely interested can have a positive effect, says school psychologist Cheryl Somers, Ph.D. Somers feels bus drivers are an underutilized resource. "There are many helpful roles a school bus driver could assume," she says. A variety of adults who work with and around children have been documented as making a difference. "The driver might coax a shy or introverted child into feeling more confident," Somers says. A bit of pleasant conversation may even be the only positive interaction a child has all day. In those few moments when a child gets on or off the bus, an attentive, involved bus driver can model kindness, courteousness and helpfulness. In a firm but respectful manner, drivers can also intervene in problem situations, since peer teasing, harassment, and pressures often take place after school, including on the bus. Some suggestions: