ANCHORAGE, Alaska — At the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s (NAPT) annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Steve Kalmes, transportation director at Anchorage School District, takes over the reins from Donald Paull as president. To get a sense of Kalmes’ plans for the association, SCHOOL BUS FLEET caught up with him in early October.
SBF: What are the major challenges facing the NAPT over the next few years?
Kalmes: We are a member-supported organization; our success is directly dependent on the support of our members. We must find ways to grow our membership even during difficult financial times.
SBF: How do you think the NAPT can address those challenges?
Kalmes: The NAPT board has had discussions about conducting a survey of our membership to determine what they believe should be NAPT's major focus and what they want from the organization. We also need to continue our efforts to inform Congress about the needs of our industry.
SBF: What do you consider the greatest strengths of the NAPT?
Kalmes: The NAPT Board of Directors and several members participated in a strategic planning session last April. We agreed that the following are the strengths of the organization.
NAPT is a diverse organization that represents all segments of the industry.
NAPT has good credibility and excellent relations with federal agencies that improve the organization’s ability to get a good hearing on industry issues.
NAPT offers professional growth opportunities, specifically the annual conference, the training program and regular communication with members.
NAPT is truly a member-driven organization responsive to the needs of the members through content and services.
NAPT is stable and financially sound.
SBF: Are you considering any changes in the NAPT’s focus or direction?
Kalmes: I plan to work with our board to continue the initiatives that the board and our members have identified as high priorities, such as public policy, training and communication with members. I personally would like to see more of our members participate in the certification program to help improve credibility with the educational community. I also believe that we need to implement a grass- roots lobbying effort, which, with the help of our membership, can reach every member of Congress.
Hurricane floods trap school buses
WILMINGTON, Del. — Employees at a First Student bus garage were evacuated by rescue boat after flash flooding that came in connection with September's Hurricane Isabel, according to the News Journal.
With water levels on the street as high as 6 feet, 90 of the fleet's 120 buses were left trapped in the yard. The Deleware National Guard and emergency workers from several local fire departments arrived to secure the area.
First Student bus driver Tim Young said the floodwaters rushed in so quickly, employees barely had time to leave the parking lot before the area was submerged. First Student workers cheered as employees were brought ashore.
Staff morale addressed by new PTSI video
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) launches its Best Practice Series with a new PTSI-produced training video titled “If Buses Could Talk: The Importance of Staff Morale.” The 18-minute video is sponsored by IC Corp. and sells for $89 plus shipping and handling.
“’If Buses Could Talk’ is a humorous but thought-provoking video that imagines what buses might say about their drivers if they could talk,” said Jim Ellis, curriculum development specialist at PTSI and script writer for the video. “We ‘overhear’ a veteran and a rookie bus as they chat about some of the drivers they’ve known. They express real faith in the driving skills and talents of their drivers. But the buses are deeply perplexed by the morale problems they’ve seen recently among drivers and other transportation staff.”
To try to understand what’s going on, the video explores a number of scenarios involving drivers relating to each other in the break room. We see how gossip and jealousy can undermine morale and make everyone’s job harder.
“This video will get drivers and other transportation staff laughing and talking and thinking about the relationship between morale, professionalism and safety,” Ellis added.
To order the video or for more information, visit PTSI’s online store at www.ptsi.org, call (800) 836-2210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quick-thinking driver helps save choking student
RENTON, Wash. — The actions of a Renton School District 403 bus driver helped save a first-grade student who swallowed a marble and started choking during a bus ride to school in September.
Judy Heskin, a six-year veteran, pulled the bus over as soon as she became aware of the problem and administered the Heimlich maneuver to the student. Heskin could not dislodge the marble, so she called 911.
While waiting for authorities, the student started breathing again, and Heskin removed her from the bus. Other students aided Heskin by manning the radio and keeping the younger riders calm before help arrived.
“The driver did everything textbook and followed procedure,” said Kevin Oleson, transportation operations manager for the district. “The biggest thing is how she stayed calm and the fact that her students were trained to assist in an emergency, which is part of our student training program.”
Renton School District drivers are given First Aid training, which must be certified every two years, said Oleson. The training covers choking for adults and children and is taught to drivers by the Renton Fire Department.
Congress approves TEA 21 extension legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation passed the House on Sept. 24 and the Senate on Sept. 26 to extend federal transit and highway programs authorized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) for five months, through Feb. 29, 2004. At press time, the bill was expected to be sent to President Bush for his anticipated approval so that the extension could take effect before TEA 21 expired on September 30.
The bill does not make changes to current law or the transit program structure under TEA 21, but simply provides a temporary extension of current law in order to provide Congress with more time to consider passage of a comprehensive reauthorization of TEA 21.
TEA 21 is considered crucial by many in the school transportation industry for its implications on funding, especially for private contractors. The bill would provide more than $14 billion to highway contract authorities and more than $3 billion for mass transit grants.
While there is now more time to develop a long-term reauthorization bill, there is still no agreement on how to pay for the increased investment proposed by authorizing committees in both the House and Senate. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to work on a $375 billion six-year transit and highway bill. Meanwhile, Senate authorizers continue to craft a six-year transit and highway bill that would follow a different resolution of $311.5 billion. The Bush Administration, on the other hand, has proposed a six-year, $247 billion bill.
Otto Nuss sentenced to 4-year prison term for kidnapping
PHILADELPHIA — School bus driver Otto Nuss, who last year armed himself and took a busload of 13 children on a wild six-hour trip to suburban Washington, D.C., was sentenced Sept. 23 to four years in prison and five years of supervised release.
Nuss, a 64-year-old former driver for the Oley (Pa.) Valley School District, pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges in June in connection with the Jan. 24, 2002, incident. He will get credit for time spent in jail since surrendering to police on that day.
With a loaded rifle and 93 rounds of ammunition aboard the bus, Nuss took the children, ages 7 to 15, from their usual morning route in Oley to Landover Hills, Md., before turning himself in to an off-duty police officer. None of the children was harmed.
The kidnapping received national attention, especially in relation to the Sept. 11 attacks. Nuss, who has a history of psychiatric problems, told students on the bus that his gun was a symbol to Osama bin Laden. Students have said, however, that they never felt in danger at any time during the detour.
“The only thing I want to say is I’m sorry to the children and their families and their parents and also to me,” Nuss said in a statement in court.
Florida district posts advice on preventing child abductions
TAMPA, Fla. — The transportation department at Hillsborough County School District has created a page on its Website devoted to protecting children from abductions.
The page includes information specific to preventing abductions at school bus stops as well as general tips on what parents should teach their children about abductions and what to do if a child is missing.
Transportation Director Beverly DeMott says the idea for the page was spurred by Charlie Hood, Florida's state director of school transportation, when he asked districts what information they had on child abductions. DeMott conducted research and ended up compiling what she learned on the new page.
The transportation department has spread word of the Website mostly through correspondence with parents, and DeMott says parents have told her that they find the section very helpful.
Here are a few tips from the site:
Work with other parents to have children walk to bus stops and wait in groups. Use the "buddy system" when possible.
Create a safe walking plan with your child using the safest and most direct path to the school bus stop.
Establish "safe houses" along the route to the bus stop that your child can go to if approached.
Keep an updated color photograph of your child in a packet along with medical and dental records and your child’s fingerprints.
Teach your child to tell the school bus driver if he or she is approached while waiting at the bus stop.
For more information, visit the transportation department's page on child abduction prevention at http://apps.sdhc.k12.fl.us/public/dept /transportation/childabdsafety.htm.
Ohio School bus driver saves life of motorist
MENTOR, Ohio — When a colleague suffered a fatal heart attack in January, Richard Holder wanted to know what he could have done to save him.
A school bus driver and CDL trainer for the Lake County Board of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities in Mentor, Ohio, Holder is required to undergo CPR training every year. During this year's course, he was especially focused. Two weeks after the class, his paying attention paid off.
James Hribar suffered a massive heart attack while at the wheel of his truck, veering dangerously into oncoming traffic. Holder was returning home from work when he witnessed Hribar's erratic driving.
"His car came across two lanes of traffic in the opposite direction and then went up a tree lawn," said Holder. "When I passed the car, I looked into the window and could see that he was slumped over."
Holder flagged passing motorists to call 911 and secured the scene before pulling Hribar, who had no pulse, out of his vehicle. Two nurses also stopped to offer assistance. When the fire department arrived, Holder and the nurses continued performing CPR on Hribar as they set up their equipment.
Hribar was eventually revived and stabilized. He has since recovered and is "very grateful" to Holder. Holder was later honored by the American Red Cross-Lake County Chapter for life-saving efforts.
"It's strange to have people ask me [about it], saying it's such a big thing," said Holder. "I just tell them it was nice to help somebody."
New IC Corp. school bus integrates customer research, input
TULSA, Okla. — After concluding its 2003 National Dealer Meeting in late September, school bus manufacturer IC Corp. unveiled its new 2005 CE series school bus before a crowd of 300 industry professionals. The new model incorporates improved performance, driver-friendliness and several features that simplify maintenance, drawing from suggestions made by drivers, mechanics and school bus operators.
The bus incorporates IC’s Diamond Logic electrical system, which allows for easy monitoring and diagnosing of operational problems from the instrument panel. Engine options include two of the company’s latest models — the International VT 365 and the DT 466. Combined, the two engines, manufactured by IC parent International Truck and Engine Corp., offer horsepower ratings ranging between 175 and 255, and torque ratings between 460 and 660 lbs.-ft.
Providing an ergonomic driving environment, the bus also has increased visibility with larger door and side windows and an increased windshield height. Additionally, when compared with curved and bonded windshields, the CE series’ one-piece, flat-glass window saves time and money when needing replacement.
IC Corp. compiled a great amount of research in developing the CE series. Not only was feedback gathered from numerous school bus industry professionals, but engineers also observed drivers and mechanics while working in the field. Some features that resulted from their observations include the implementation of overlapping windshield wipers to cover a larger area, enhanced controls on the steering wheel, better heating and defrosting capability, a quieter engine and improved fuel economy.
“We try to keep a close relationship with our customers, and they were emphatic about achieving true improvement and functionality in this new product, rather than pursuing technology for its own sake,” said Tom Celitti, VP and general manager of International’s Bus Vehicle Center in Warrenville, Ill. “For example, they wanted features like a flat-glass windshield, so they could make fast and easy repairs without spending too much time and money. To deliver on what customers asked for, we designed the entire vehicle with this commonsense approach in mind.”
IC officials said the bus also possesses improved engine performance, cleaner emissions and faster warm-up times. Other features, geared at streamlining maintenance of the bus, include extended-life coolant, easy fluid checks, long-life bulbs and reusable gaskets.
The IC Corp. dealer meeting took place from Sept. 25-28 in Tulsa at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. Following the meeting, the company had a special presentation introducing and demonstrating features of the new buses. Attendees to this event had the chance to test drive the new buses. The CE series will be formally unveiled at the National Association for Pupil Transportation trade show in Salt Lake City.
“I thought the engine might be too small at first, but it’s available in multiple horsepower ratings so I don’t think it will be an issue,” said Paul Dillon, maintenance supervisor for Fairfield-Suisan (Calif.) Unified School District. Dillon had the chance to test drive three separate CE series models. “The acceleration and automatic engine braking were what impressed me the most,” he said.
Said Leonard Swilley, state director of pupil transportation for Mississippi, “I think these new buses could be a plus for school districts in Mississippi and the rest of the nation.”