Pupil transporters Marcia and Ryan Hahn are passionate about what they do — they strive to provide the best work environment and training for the staff at their operations, and they learn from one another, drawing on their more than 40 years of combined experience.
Marcia Hahn is transportation director at Wenatchee (Wash.) School District #246, and her son, Ryan, is transportation director at Central Kitsap School District #401 in Silverdale, Wash.
Wenatchee School District #246’s area of service is 256 square miles, and it extends from 1,000 feet up to 4,500 feet, so drivers operate buses on mountainous routes, and often in snow. The transportation department maintains 40 buses and more than 200 pieces of equipment.
“My department received recognition for excellence in efficiency from the Washington state auditor’s office,” Marcia Hahn told SBF in an interview. “For our size district, the amount of students we transport and the amount of equipment we have, we were rated as most efficient in the state.”
Central Kitsap School District #401's area of service is 110 square miles, and it has a fleet of approximately 100 school buses. Ryan Hahn’s operation transports approximately 9,000 students daily. The operation also maintains 40 buses for a neighboring district.
Focused on training
Marcia began her career over 31 years ago as a school bus driver. She later became a driver trainer before transitioning into supervisory positions. She has spent 23 years as a transportation director, eight of which have been at Wenatchee School District #246.
Marcia is also a state driver trainer, and she has been on Washington state’s driver instructor training committee for 25 years.
“Since my passion is with training and I write curriculum for the driver trainers in the state, it’s a passion for me to give my staff the best possible tools I can to perform their tasks at the highest level,” she said. “We have continuous training, and I think the dividends are the benefit here because we have excellent drivers and our kids are safe.”
As a state trainer, Marcia has worked one-on-one with the Washington State Patrol to help create an advanced curriculum for the state’s driver trainers on maintaining optimum control of a school bus. It covers such topics as vehicle dynamics, emergency evasive maneuvers, weight shift transfer and curve negotiation.
Marcia has given her drivers behind-the-wheel training on all of these topics to help them in driving the operation’s mountainous routes and in snowy weather. “It’s important for drivers to understand how their vehicle is going to react to braking, steering, over-steering, etc., in those conditions,” she said.
Marcia also noted that since implementing these training efforts, there has been a significant reduction in the number of accidents involving her operation’s buses.
Focused on staff support
Ryan's pupil transportation career formally began 10 years ago when he served as a substitute bus driver while he was in college, but he feels he has many more years’ worth of knowledge having grown up with Marcia and spending time with her colleagues.
Ryan has held many positions at several districts in both Washington and Oregon, from school bus driver and mechanic to driver trainer to dispatcher to router to supervisor and now, director.
He told SBF in an interview that holding these positions has enabled him to understand that good communication and staff support is essential to an effective transportation department, and this is also something that he’s learned from Marcia.
To that end, Ryan said that he’s been working hard to get to know the transportation staff at Central Kitsap School District #401 since he started there last July.
His goal in his first year on the job is to build relationships with his staff in order to effectively support them, and he's working to build his core leadership team to provide good service to the students the department transports and their parents. In regard to the bus drivers, he is working to provide them with the tools and training they need to perform their job well.
“When I got here, we established operating principles for the way that we communicate with each other, the way that we want to work with each other, for sensible humor, being flexible and listening to one another,” Ryan added. “My hope is that throughout my tenure here, the transportation department is a fun, safe and harmonious place for people to come to every day. If I can do that, then I feel I’ve done my job.”
Working and learning together
Aside from the importance of good communication and staff support in a transportation department, Ryan said his mom has helped him build training programs at the districts where he’s held supervisor or director positions.
For her part, Marcia says she’s learned a lot from Ryan in the years that he’s worked in management.
“Ryan’s communication skills are pretty phenomenal,” she said. “We bounce ideas off one another constantly. It’s nice to have a fresh view and perhaps a totally different take on how to handle a complex situation.”
“We share common situations that most transportation managers would find, such as how to motivate people to do better and how to have tough conversations with people without them thinking it’s a tough conversation,” Ryan added.
The Hahns have also worked together on training. They said that they have been invited to other districts to provide instruction for their bus drivers on winter driving and to teach the vehicle dynamics curriculum that Marcia helped to create.
“Ryan has been behind the wheel, so he has a real hands-on point of view, and the drivers relate to that,” Marcia said of their joint training sessions.
She also noted that as an industry veteran, it’s exciting for her to see a young professional like her son come into the industry with an eager and enthusiastic attitude.
“We, as more senior people, need to nurture the openness and the focus of the new people coming in,” Marcia said.