Michael Shields (right), director of transportation and auxiliary services for Oregon’s Salem-Keizer Public Schools, says vetting information with executive-level individuals prior to presenting at a board meeting will help in understanding the board’s position on specific topics. Shields is pictured with school board Chairperson Jim Green accepting the 2013 Dennis Essary Leadership award.
3. Provide regular updates on your operation’s activity. Whether you work for a school district’s transportation department or you work for the bus company that provides yellow bus service for a school district, officials say you will be doing your operation a disservice if school board members aren’t routinely kept abreast of what’s happening at the operation and what issues are impacting transportation.
“I consider it my role to support the administration with data, to always be available to present the data to the board and to work with everyone cooperatively while finding creative solutions for current issues,” says Ron Ernenwein, president of AA Transportation in Shrewsbury, Mass. “In most cases if the board is not cooperating, it is only because no one has given them the documented facts of the issue.”
“Don’t just rely on that once per year spotlight at budget time to show your department’s value,” Remelius adds. “I send a weekly update to the superintendent, cabinet and principals that always includes information on what the transportation department is doing so the value of its service stays fresh in their minds.”
Providing updates such as how many bus drivers passed their physical exam and drug test, how many gallons of fuel were purchased and how much it cost, and specifics on what’s necessary to keep buses well maintained illustrates the complexity of a school bus operation, he adds.
Flood says the Trans Group’s companies work to educate the school board members and district administrators about the parent company’s commitment to delivering excellent service, and when necessary, officials will discuss solutions to challenges related to a specific district or districts served by the company.
“We also place importance on educating school boards and administrators on trends happening across the country throughout the school bus industry,” he adds.
4. Respond to issues promptly. Portee and Meslin emphasize the importance of responding to communications from school board members in a timely manner, particularly if the communication involves a concern related to transportation.
“It is our responsibility to respond honestly, promptly and professionally when an issue is forwarded to us from the board,” Meslin says. “If it is a complaint, instead of defending our actions or inactions, we find it far more effective to explain them and, if necessary, explain our rationale. If action is required, we make sure it is performed properly. One of the secrets of our success is that as we fix problems we also fix processes.”
Portee says that because she has made an effort to introduce herself to board members, they know that she is heavily invested in the well-being of students and their transportation, so board members forward communications from concerned parents or community members to her, enabling her to quickly respond to those concerns.
5. Share your department’s successes. Meslin notes that he is fortunate that Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s board has taken an active interest in his department’s services and recognizes the difference his team makes in the lives of students.
Sharing the department’s successes has helped to facilitate this interest and support. “We make certain to let them [board members] know about significant events where they can see what we do and share with us as we celebrate around our students,” Meslin says. “So our board members are invited and attend our startup event, our driver appreciation event, and our annual Halloween haunted house for students with special needs.
“The fact is that many in our business do heroic things every day. School boards love to hear these stories, especially as it shows how far ‘above and beyond’ we will go for our students.”
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