As she becomes president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), Linda Bluth has more than three decades of experience with school transportation to draw from.
She has particular expertise in the area of transporting students with special needs, and she has delivered numerous publications and workshops on the topic.
In June, Bluth retired from full-time employment to prepare for her role in NAPT. She is continuing with the Maryland Department of Education half-time, but her role is still extensive.
Among her duties as a quality assurance specialist are responding to and resolving statewide special-education transportation complaints from advocates and parents. She also serves as the liaison between the Office of Quality Assurance and Monitoring and the assistant state superintendent for special education.
Bluth discussed the agenda of the NAPT Summit in Louisville, Ky., her goals for the association and more with SBF Executive Editor Thomas McMahon.
SBF: Tell us about your key goals for your term as president of NAPT.
LINDA BLUTH: First of all, it has been a pleasure to serve as president-elect for the past two years under the leadership of Bill Tousley. He has been a great mentor and has given me the opportunity to take a leadership role in areas that are my passion. I am at a time in my life that it is a pleasure to give back to the transportation community.
There were several things I hoped to accomplish when I was elected. One of the most important things was to create a formal mechanism for our affiliate members, which we call business partners, to actively engage in policymaking for the association. Although there was never anything that prohibited vendors from serving on the NAPT board, we learned that vendors were reluctant to participate in an election with an NAPT individual member that may be a current or potential customer.
We passed an amendment to our by-laws last July that created a new seat on the NAPT board for a business partner, and we are going to hold our first election for that seat in Louisville. There are four candidates in the race, which I think is great. I look forward to working with whoever wins, and I intend to make our new affiliate member feel like an integral part of the team as quickly as possible.
Another thing I wanted to do was collaborate as often as possible with nontraditional stakeholders in our industry, and I am pleased to say we are already making inroads in this endeavor. We are creating linkages with the private sector, with government and with academia that are new and exciting. I am a firm believer that NAPT is the best place in our industry for everyone and anyone interested in working together to make a positive impact on children.
In the broadest sense, I will continue to seek ways to support the membership by fulfilling the vision of NAPT, which is to be first and foremost in leading, supporting and developing world-class professionals who provide safe and efficient pupil transportation for our children.
How do you think the presence of the new affiliate member position on the NAPT board will benefit the association?
I supported this new board seat as a part of my campaign election because I strongly believe an affiliate member will add an important perspective to the existing board membership. This opportunity allows the vendor community to select a voice to represent an essential element of the transportation industry.
What do you expect to be some of the highlights of this year's NAPT Summit in Louisville?
We have worked hard to put together one of our most inspirational and instructional programs despite the challenges we all face from our national economic slowdown. We have terrific keynote and general session speakers who are going to talk about the most current and relevant issues in our industry. Dirk Kempthorne is sure to be a standout, as are John Musso, Peggy Burns and Jeff Evans. We are very excited that Dr. Jurek Grabowski has agreed to join us to explain his research on distracted driving in school zones; this is a seminal report, and he is an eminent scholar. The list goes on and on.
I believe all attendees will appreciate the vision of NAPT, our focus on instructional leadership and the opportunities we have created to network at a memorable annual conference despite the fiscal challenges we all face in the transportation industry.
When and how did you first become involved in school transportation?
I became involved over three decades ago because I believed then, as I do now, that the yellow school bus provides the best and most appropriate mode of transportation to and from school. It is the best means of access to an education and is a direct link to higher achievement for our nation's students in urban, suburban and rural areas.
You recently created a new grant to fund field trip opportunities. Tell us about the need you saw in that area.
The Bluth-Eisman Field Trip Grant is simply a way to demonstrate my belief that the yellow bus plays a vital role in educating our children. We intend for the grant to provide children who might not otherwise have the opportunity with a special field trip experience. We are also pleased to acknowledge the importance of the yellow school bus as a means of accessing invaluable learning opportunities.
I am privileged to be in a position and to have the opportunity to give back to the transportation community and our nation's children, who will be our future leaders. I am very grateful to Zonar Systems, which agreed to double the size of the grant, for helping me support a lifelong dream.
Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?
Thanks for the opportunity to share with you, and I look forward to my next two years as NAPT president. I am honored to have this opportunity.