11. Acts on Feedback
Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but great directors seek it out from many sources: staff, bosses, parents, administrators — even students.
Meslin says that if the feedback is positive, directors should share it with those who are responsible. If the feedback is negative, they should “get to work revising processes and procedures to fix things.”
A successful director sees the entire transportation operation as his or her personal responsibility.
“Every success is yours, and every failure is yours,” says Jack Coxen of Brewster (N.Y.) Central School District (CSD). “One very important proviso: Success is never an island, and failure almost always is. Failure among the staff requires the manager’s participation to correct for tomorrow.”
13. Forward Thinking
Transportation directors should always be on the lookout for new technology, new ideas and new sources of funding.
Carol Stamper of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools points to the value in seeking “technology solutions to enhance customer service and formulate data-driven decisions for continual improvement.”
John Clements of Kings Canyon USD in Reedley, Calif., makes great efforts to fund new school buses through many clean-air sources.
“Be forward thinking,” he suggests. “Look outside the box.”
14. Has a Servant’s Heart
Should a director serve?
Beekman says that having a servant’s heart is one of the hardest concepts that managers have to grasp.
“It is the notion that in order for my employees to excel in the path that has been laid out for them, it is my responsibility to see to their needs,” he says. “Our drivers need to have buses that don’t break down, route sheets that are accurate, school administrators that are responsive to discipline and a manager that will make their issue a priority to resolve.”
The desire to serve should also apply to the students, parents and faculty.
“I want to give everyone the best service that I can and do it with a smile on my face,” says Brent Childers of Highland Park Independent School District (ISD) in Amarillo, Texas.
15. Keeps Learning
Great transportation directors don’t get to a point where they think they know it all — they keep striving to learn more. That could mean learning from others in the district, taking advantage of the resources of industry associations or pursuing further academic opportunities.
16. Eye for Talent
Top-notch directors need a top-notch staff, and that means making the right calls in hiring and promotions.
John Franklin of Hillsborough County (Fla.) Public Schools says that the “ability to assess talent and skills sets, and then grow and develop leaders, is essential. Dedicated professionals are now retiring from the pupil transportation industry, and we directors must be able to shape the next generation of leaders.”
Jackie Fields of Belton (Texas) ISD says that a successful director needs “the ability to surround yourself with a great team. ... The team is the success.”
Feisal Jahay of Hesston (Kan.) USD 460 specifies that hiring positive team players is key, and “if they do not love the kids or driving a bus, do not hire them.”
Of course, great leadership is essential to being a great transportation director. But how is leadership defined? It’s likely an amalgam of traits.
“Leadership in this sense is a broad term to encompass integrity, commitment to your people and your mission, and the ability to know your stuff, your people and yourself,” says Grant Reppert of Gwinnett County Public Schools in Lawrenceville, Ga. “This is why people are willing to trust and follow the direction and guidance you provide.”
Adds Brian Weisinger of Spring ISD in Houston: “You must stand up for what you believe, in all dealings. This is true leadership.”
18. to 20. The Three Cs
Paul Balon of Douglas County (Colo.) School District says that great transportation directors must have the three Cs of leadership:
• Compassion to listen to others
• Confidence to make a tough decision and know it is right for the students and stakeholders.
• Courage and ability to stand alone once the decision is made — and to admit when you make a wrong decision.