The 2011 National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Summit, which was held in Cincinnati in October, held sessions on a variety of important and interesting topics, ranging from bullying to alternative fuels. Presenters gave attendees tips and information that they could bring back to their staff and apply at their operations.
Also noteworthy was a special event to debut a new all-electric Type A school bus on the market. The trade show showcased other new school buses.
Speakers discuss bullying prevention
Bullying among kids, and ways to intervene and prevent it, were the subjects of two passionate presentations. Author Jodee Blanco has created a bullying prevention program called “It’s NOT Just Joking Around!” and she drew from her own experiences being bullied as a child and teen in developing it.
Because many bullied students often confide in their school bus drivers, Blanco emphasized that transportation managers should make sure to tell their bus drivers how important they are.
She suggested that if school bus drivers see an incident taking place, they pull over, stop the bus and deal with it immediately. However, Blanco cautioned against chastising the bully in front of his or her peers. Instead, she suggested using a diversion to “extricate the victim out of that limelight.”
“It could be something as simple as asking the student who’s being bullied to come to the front of the bus and make a list for you — anything to get them out of that environment,” she said.
Following Blanco, Jessica Brookshire discussed K.A.R.M.A., a nonprofit organization that she founded. (K.A.R.M.A. stands for Kids Against Ridicule, Meanness and Aggression.)
Brookshire believes that empathy is a key component to reducing and preventing incidents of bullying, and she is also an advocate of positive energy.
“I started K.A.R.M.A. because there was no national organization to help support bullying prevention,” Brookshire said. “Kids need to have positive energy to push them toward positive behavior, and that’s what K.A.R.M.A. is based on — the goal is to rekindle kindness in our youth.”
She believes that communication is another integral component to bullying prevention, so when speaking to students at schools, she recommends that they tell at least five adults if they witness a bullying incident or are a victim of bullying.
Adults, in turn, should listen to the students and focus on the victim and how he or she is feeling.
Sessions address wheelchair use in school transportation, training
Also during the summit, attendees learned about the preliminary results of research conducted by the universities of Pittsburgh and Louisville for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheelchair Transportation Safety.
Researchers surveyed bus drivers and attendants to obtain information on current practices in transporting wheelchair-seated students in school buses.
Mary Ellen Buning, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP, of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, told conferees that the ultimate goal of the study is to “improve the safety of students who use wheelchairs and remain seated in them within vehicles.”
Buning said that her first impression based on the results of this survey is that bus drivers and attendants care about their students and they are trying to do a good job in securing and transporting them, but they often don’t have adequate training based on evidence and best practices.
Additionally, many respondents indicated a desire for more training on how to handle exceptions to standard wheelchair configurations seen in training.
In terms of training, Buning said that nearly all respondents reported that they have received instruction on how to secure a wheelchair in a school bus, but a small percentage reported that they have never received training.
Of those who have received training, many are trained annually, but some people reported that they were only trained at the time that they were hired.
To learn more about wheelchair transportation safety, go to www.rercwts.org.
How to ensure that your department is providing effective training when training dollars have been slashed was one area that was discussed during a lively presentation on maintaining integrity under tough fiscal restraints by Linda Bluth, who concluded her two-year term as president of NAPT at the conference, and attorney and consultant Peggy Burns, owner of Education Compliance Group.
“Make use of every free resource you’ve got,” Bluth said, although she advised against relying on the web for everything.
Burns noted that one of the best ways to train without added expense is to look within your own school district.
“Bring in the physical therapist,” she recommended. “Bring in a teacher to tell you how she keeps kids in order at the end of the day.”
Technology and alternative-fuel options in the industry
Technology and alternative fuels were other hot topics at the conference. During a transportation technology session, moderated by NAPT Public Affairs Consultant Barry McCahill, manufacturer and supplier representatives addressed developments that are impacting the school bus industry, or will in the future. Technologies that were discussed ranged from stability control systems — which the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended be required on new commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds — to student-tracking devices to camera systems.
SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo moderated a forum on alternative-fuel technology. School bus OEM officials described their companies’ backgrounds in alternative fuels and their current offerings. They also answered questions from attendees, touching on issues like fueling infrastructure and driving range.
Industry professionals got their first in-person look at Trans Tech Bus’ new alternative-fuel offering — the all-electric eTrans school bus — during a special event at the NAPT Summit. (For information on the bus, click here.)
At the unveiling, officials revealed that Kings Canyon Unified School District in Reedley, Calif., would receive the first eTrans unit.
John Clements, director of transportation for the district, told SBF that he’s looking forward to the fact that the bus doesn’t require a petroleum-based fuel to operate.
“I anticipate that the bus is going to go roughly 50 to 55 miles a day initially based on the route that it’s scheduled for, but I can also see it being used for small activity trips that are 25 or 30 miles in one direction,” he added.
(The eTrans was delivered to Kings Canyon in mid-December. Clements said it would then be driven to Sacranmento, Calif., to visit the transportation community there.)
New buses at trade show
There was a variety of new products on view during the trade show, including offerings from school bus manufacturers. In addition to the eTrans from Trans Tech Bus, Blue Bird showcased its Next Generation Propane-Powered Vision, which was developed with Ford and ROUSH CleanTech. Officials said that the bus provides customers with increased fuel economy, greater horsepower and torque, and a 67-gallon fuel tank — the largest tank available.
The new version of the bus also offers enhanced serviceability, broader optional equipment choices and a five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Canadian manufacturer Lion Bus had on display its Type C unit, the Lion Bus 360°. Among the features of the bus is a 102-inch body, which company officials said increases the aisle width inside the bus by 50 percent. The bus is built on a Spartan chassis and is available with a Cummins ISB engine.
Attendees also had an opportunity to board Thomas Built Buses’ redesigned Type D bus, the Saf-T-Liner EFX. Officials said the bus’ exterior makes it easier and more convenient to access electrical components, while a new engine cover allows belts and fluid levels to be checked easily — without removing the cover and without tools.
Moreover, Thomas Built increased cockpit storage to make the EFX more comfortable and convenient for drivers.
For more trade show products, go here.
The 2012 NAPT Conference and Trade Show is scheduled to be held in Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 20-25.
NAPT honors pupil transporters
Pupil transportation professionals were honored during the NAPT annual awards banquet and celebratory breakfast.
During the banquet, Jeff Carpenter of Blue Bird presented
the Blue Bird Heroism Award to John Fothergill of Southeast Polk Community School District in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, for his actions on Aug. 27, which was the district’s first day of school. For details, see the “Heroes in school transportation” profile here.
Peter Lawrence, director of transportation at Fairport (N.Y.) Central School District, received the NAPT’s Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the pupil transportation community.
Also during the awards banquet, SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo presented the Administrator of the Year award to Mike Connors, director of transportation at Brevard Public Schools in Cocoa, Fla. To read about Connors’ career, go here.
Finally, Bill Paul, founder of School Transportation News, was inducted into the NAPT Hall of Fame by outgoing NAPT president Linda Bluth.
During the Leading the Day: Recognition for Exceptional Performers celebratory breakfast, honorees were recognized for excellence in safety, as well as school bus maintenance and inspection.
The transportation staff at Allen (Texas) Independent School District was honored by John Thompson of IC Bus with the Driver Training Team award, which recognizes a school district transportation operation that has gone above and beyond the minimum training requirements.
Finally, Don Carnahan, vice president of business development at Zonar Systems, announced the eight recipients of a $50,000 grant from the company and NAPT that will go toward the purchase of Zonar equipment.
To view the list of recipients, go here.
NAPT names poster contest winners
At the trade show, entries for the association’s 2011 National School Bus Safety Week Poster Contest were on display.
The theme for the contest was “I See the Driver — The Driver Sees Me!” Samantha Bussell of Lafayette, Tenn., placed first in Division II and was the overall winner of the contest.
Here are the top entrants in each division:
First: Odette Padron, High Point, N.C.
Second: Josie McCall, Lafayette, Tenn.
Third: Jennifer Russell, Port Orange, Fla.
First and Overall Winner: Samantha
Bussell, Lafayette, Tenn.
Second: Jennifer Sieredzki, Clayton, N.C.
Third: Louisa Nikolova, Coon Rapids, Minn.
First: Kelly Guo, Kapolei, Hawaii
Second: Elina Gouw, Portland, Ore.
Third: Victoria Tu, Northbrook, Ill.
First: Patricia Kontomichalos, West Hempstead, N.Y.
Second: Ricardo Aguilar, Oakland Park, Fla.
Third: James Hundl, Dickinson, Texas
Computer Assisted Drawing Division
First: Marley Robb, Baker City, Ore.
Second: Myles Williams, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Third: Micah Weis, Mullens, W.Va.
First: Hinane Murata, Japan