Conference keeps transporters on track with technology

Posted on June 1, 2006

LAS VEGAS — More than 200 pupil transportation professionals convened here during the first week of April to network, share strategies and learn about new technology.

The 11th Annual Edulog Conference and the Student Transportation Leaders Conference, held jointly at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, focused on Edulog’s solutions, with a specific angle on advances in GPS. However, the event was opened for the first time to non-Edulog customers and took on subject matter applicable to all school bus officials.

The bulk of the activities was a variety of all-day software training classes for different experience levels and specific applications, such as field-trip transportation. In a beginner session, Edulog’s Ken Colson led a room full of laptop-equipped clients through the ins and outs of the software, pausing frequently to make sure that everyone was up to speed.

The conference agenda also included a panel discussion titled “Homeland Security, Disaster Management and Your School Bus Fleet.”

Among the panelists was Leonard Hill, transportation director for Burke County Public Schools in Waynesboro, Ga. The district is one of two agencies enlisted to evacuate residents — mostly those who are homebound or have special needs — within a 10-mile radius of a local nuclear power plant.

Hill described the creation, implementation and testing of the disaster management plan that he participates in and the challenges that the agencies face in communicating and coordinating their efforts.

A series of roundtable discussions covered an assortment of topics, such as how Edulog’s software can help with special-needs routing. Some topics weren’t directly related to software — for instance, some attendees shared best practices in recruiting and retaining drivers.

Conferees had the opportunity to visit the transportation department at Las Vegas’ own Clark County School District. Director Ron Despenza and members of his staff gave a tour of the top-notch operation.

The district’s fleet is heavily equipped with features to improve safety and comfort. All of the 1,200-plus buses have air conditioning, which is crucial for the area’s extremely hot climate. The district’s newer buses have sound-deadening ceilings to reduce the interior noise level.

Pupil transporters at the conference expressed satisfaction with the overall experience.

Roy Hallanger, transportation analyst for Minneapolis Public Schools, said he appreciates the opportunity to network with colleagues. “We’re doing an RFP for GPS, so I wanted to find out how other districts are approaching GPS,” said Hallanger, who was on his second trip to the event.

Karen Flynn, transportation specialist at Racine (Wis.) Unified School District, was attending for her fifth time. “The trainers are all well-versed and can answer our questions,” she said.

First-timer Fred Retzloff, transportation supervisor at Wayzata (Minn.) Public Schools, said he’s amazed with how big and powerful the Edulog system is. “It can do everything districts need it to,” he said.

Next year’s Edulog Conference is scheduled for April 1-4, 2007, again in Las Vegas.

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