Don Carnahan’s second term as NAPT president began in October. The first was 1997-99. Photo by Jaime Gallego.
Fourteen years after concluding his last presidency of NAPT, Don Carnahan has taken the reins of the association for another two-year term.
Carnahan, who is vice president of business development in pupil transportation for Zonar Systems, has had one of the more diverse careers in the industry.
During his previous term as NAPT president, 1997-99, he was a regional director for school bus contractor Laidlaw. Before that, he served as state director of pupil transportation in Washington. He also chaired the 11th National Congress on School Transportation in 1990.
SBF Executive Editor Thomas McMahon spoke with Carnahan about his new term as president, how the industry has changed since his last term, and current issues impacting the transportation of students.
SBF: What are some of your key goals as you start this term as president of NAPT?
DON CARNAHAN: The first thing I want to say is that NAPT as an organization has an excellent staff and an excellent executive director. It’s not like there’s anything that’s broken that needs to be fixed. So I think in a nutshell, I would say that my first goal is to try to do everything I can as president to make it as efficient and effective as possible for the NAPT staff to do their jobs.
There is a strategic plan in place, and one of my major goals is to try to figure out ways to more efficiently and effectively get the board interaction to make it easier to accomplish those goals and objectives.
That being said, one of the things that I really want to try to do is to get all of the organizations in the industry to work a little more cooperatively together on getting the industry messages out there so that it will have some impact on the public. We do a pretty good job of preaching to the choir and talking to ourselves about what we do, but I’m hoping that we can figure out some way to do a better job of communicating that to the public at large and to the rest of the education community. I think it’s important that we figure out a way to do that, because it certainly doesn’t have the desired impact if we just talk to each other — especially if we’re just complaining about how things are.
You served as NAPT president before. What are some ways that the industry has changed since then, and what remains the same?
There’s always been the need and desire for more resources, because it’s a state-funded activity. And different states at different times go through different gyrations in terms of their ability to fund their state obligation. So I think the whole idea of the funding mechanisms that the school systems rely on for resources is pretty much the same. It may be a little worse now, just because money is tight everywhere.
Back when I was president the first time, ‘97-99, we were always dealing with fuel prices. They’d go up and up and up, and about the time somebody figured out a way to deal with it, maybe adjusting the funding level, then they’d go back down. So nobody did anything. It was kind of a self-correcting issue before anybody stepped in and provided the financial resources to make up for the shortfall.