Early in his pupil transportation management career, Mike Connors went through school bus driver training and got a CDL. He still drives a bus from time to time.
Mike Connors believes that you shouldn’t tell someone how to do a job unless you can do the job.
It was that conviction that led Connors, early in his pupil transportation management career, to go through school bus driver training and get a CDL. Years later, the director of transportation for Brevard Public Schools in Cocoa, Fla., maintains his qualifications and even drives a bus from time to time.
“It gives me a better feel for dealing with the drivers,” he says.
Connors oversees a transportation department with more than 500 employees and over 400 route buses, ranking it in SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Top 100 School District Fleets in the nation.
Even with the large size of his operation, Florida state pupil transportation director Charlie Hood points out that Connors shows an exemplary level of personal attention to his department’s customers.
Connors’ staff members cite his outstanding leadership. He is also highly involved in the pupil transportation community beyond his own district.
For his contributions to the industry at the local, state and national levels, Connors was named SBF’s 38th Administrator of the Year.
SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo presented the honor at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) awards banquet in Cincinnati in October.
Connors is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. It was in the service that he had his first experience with pupil transportation.
On assignment overseas in Spain, Connors was a deputy base commander. Under his watch was the transportation of military families’ children from where they lived around Madrid to the base schools. Connors particularly gained experience with student discipline, dealing with issues on the buses (which were motorcoaches) and in the schools.
“Things were easier then,” he recalls. “I’d call the military parent in, say, ‘You’re going to do this,’ and that usually took care of it.”
After the Air Force, Connors joined the transportation department at Escambia County School District in Pensacola, Fla. He served as a transportation director there for seven years before moving across the state to Brevard Public Schools.
One of Connors’ top accomplishments at Brevard has been a change in bell times that saved the district $1.2 million in the following year.
By adding 15 minutes in between elementary and secondary bell times, the transportation department was able to cut costs by reducing its number of bus routes from 428 to 404.
Chuck Stevenson, who served as Connors’ assistant director for more than 10 years, points out that during recent times of widespread budget cuts, Connors led his team in providing the justification and documentation needed to keep all of the transportation staff in place and prevent layoffs.
Stevenson, who recently retired after 38 years with the Brevard transportation department, describes Connors as “a strong administrator ... fair, consistent, a team player and a very good listener.”
Stevenson says that Connors lets his key team leaders run their areas of responsibility, “but they have to keep him informed and be accountable for their actions and decisions.”