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March 17, 2014  |   Comments (8)   |   Post a comment

How do you communicate with your team?

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Countless times when I have spoken with pupil transportation professionals, they have relayed to me the importance of communicating with their staff on all aspects of the operation that affect their jobs in order to safely transport students to and from school.

Michael Shields, director of transportation and auxiliary services at Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore., has frequent meetings with his staff that are designed to be informative as well as fun.

The drivers’ room is equipped with a projector and a screen, and each week, the district’s driver trainer puts together a PowerPoint presentation for the team. One week, for example, the presentation included information on bus drivers and assistant trainers who had recently joined Salem-Keizer Public Schools; an upcoming job fair; the district’s school bus evacuation drill schedule; the district’s progress in raising money for its school bus safety competition; and a reminder on the department’s procedure for handling notices of student misbehavior.  

The presentation also covered fun and heartwarming topics, such as food-related trivia, information on the current astrological sign (Pisces) and a note and accompanying photo from students at a Head Start program thanking their school bus driver for taking them to a pumpkin patch.     

Shields tells me that he also spends time once a month with several teams — staff from transportation, warehouse and delivery, and printing and mail — to conduct “Dialogue with the Director.”
“We share current and upcoming events in the school district and ask for input, feedback and rumor control,” Shields explains.

He says that some of the subjects discussed during a recent dialogue were school day extensions for inclement weather, the status of a new software project, individuals who had received recognition, summer school planning, revision of procedures for motor pool fueling, and meeting with the city to debrief on winter weather events.

In addition to these gatherings, Shields says that each team (transportation, warehouse and delivery, and printing and mail) meets weekly or monthly with their respective managers (minutes are kept and action items noted). Once a week those managers meet with Shields, and usually once a week Shields meets with the district’s chief operating officer.

“At each of these meetings we try to take the information and share it with others so everyone feels informed,” he adds.

What are you doing at your school district or bus company to communicate with your team? Send an e-mail to [email protected] or post your comments below.

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I would love to see how people communicate with their team. A lot of our drivers work so we see them for a very limited time before and after routes. I don't think there is ever a day when all drivers happen to be present at the same time.

Alice    |    Mar 17, 2014 11:07 AM

In the past, our district would create written communication to distribute to all our drivers. I have tried to get away from this time consuming form of communication. The technology department has assigned login accounts for all district drivers. We have installed an additional computer terminal and printer in our bus barn that allows drivers to receive district emails and view required training material. All of our drivers have cell phones so I send group texts to everyone regarding general information or send one just to a specific driver if it only pertains to that driver. Darren Ashley

Darren Ashley    |    Mar 17, 2014 11:07 AM

As a mechanic I strive to speak to drivers in person, but it is not always possible due to weather,snow plowing,special event trips,etc.. What I do is we have a large dry erase board by the time clock. The drivers leave messages for me and I erase and write back when an issue is resolved or is going to put a bus down. I wont trust it 100%, but it is a quick, easy, and inexpensive tool for communication. I also try to tell another driver whose route schedule corresponds with the one I am leaving a note for as a check for the board.

Steve C    |    Mar 17, 2014 11:35 AM

I have team meetings every 3 to 4 weeks, usually include a presenter, go over some safety concerns and recognize employees for various accomplishments. We also have various teams assigned to review safety concerns and arrange team functions. I periodically post safety reminders...and our employees have access to email.I have also conducted climate surveys with my staff. And best of all, the best thing is to be out among the staff mingling, observing and listening.

Tom Thorpe    |    Mar 17, 2014 12:35 PM

We do a monthly newsletter that goes out on payday along with the monthly inspection form and time sheets. We see most drivers on that day. They also have email accounts and a computer in the training room for their use. Another link we added this year is small group training. It is once a month for 1.5 hours and it is grouped by the school that they transport students. This is a time that I get to see they face to face and also get to do much needed training.

Wendy Vaughn    |    Mar 18, 2014 04:47 AM

We have a lounge for the drivers. Of course, they are never all there at the same time, due to schedules. At our monthly meetings we schedule the meetings according to the driver/aide's time of availability. This also decreases the amount of employees at each meeting which makes it easier for discussion.

Joyce    |    Mar 18, 2014 07:52 AM

Very good article and great comments following! I hope to be able to implement at least one suggestion I took away from the comment area. Thank you!

B.West    |    Mar 18, 2014 08:13 AM

I don't think we can ever communicate enough with our drivers. It is so hard to catch them all at one time but we try. We keep a daily update on a white board, on the front door, of the office where the bus keys are picked up morning, afternoon, and in the evenings. We send out bi-monthly newsletters with safety info, school site info, driver birthdays, bus lot events such as potlucks, and pictures of drivers doing good deeds as much as possible. We have monthly mandatory team meetings for drivers which is usually training so they can obtain in-service hours. My favorite sign in the office is, " There are NO dumb questions, just dumb mistakes" Always try to encourage communications.

connie    |    Jun 23, 2014 05:25 PM

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