The top rungs of the leadership ladder changed hands recently at the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). The first change took place at the association’s 2006 meeting, held in early November in Kansas City, Mo.
Derek Graham, state pupil transportation director in North Carolina, took over the association’s two-year presidency from Pete Japikse, state director in Ohio. Three weeks later, Bob Riley, formerly transportation director at Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District, was named executive director, filling the vacancy created by Charlie Gauthier’s retirement early last year.
More than 100 people attended the 2006 conference, including 32 state directors, nine other state government representatives, 26 members of the association’s Supplier Council and 20 state association or associate members. Rod McKnight, former state pupil transportation director in Idaho, coordinated the meeting, which lasted the better part of four days and covered a wide range of topics.
As in years past, safety and security topics were well represented on the conference agenda. Tim Arnade, coordinator of the Safe Routes to School program for the Federal Highway Administration, led things off with a discussion of the federal government’s interest in encouraging more children in the U.S. to walk or ride their bikes to school. He presented statistics showing that American children aren’t getting enough exercise. “Today’s children may have a shorter lifespan than their parents,” Arnade said.
The federal government has committed more than $600 million to the Safe Routes program through 2009, Arnade said, with some of the funds directed toward improving sidewalks, adding bicycle parking facilities and launching public awareness campaigns regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety. Another objective, he said, is to reduce traffic congestion around schools and to improve air quality.
Some NASDPTS meeting attendees expressed concern that the Safe Routes program, perhaps unintentionally, might take some children off the school bus, where they’re most protected in their travel to and from school. One state director said he heard a radio station promote National Walk to School Day by urging children “to get off the bus and walk to school.” But Ohio’s Japikse said the program can safely co-exist with school bus transportation imperatives. “We just need to communicate with each other,” he said.
Security training available
On the issue of security, John Green, California’s state pupil transportation director, led a panel discussion about key initiatives to protect children from security threats while they’re being transported in school buses.
A relatively new program that’s being offered is School Transportation Security Awareness (STSA) training, which was developed by Consolidated Safety Services for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The training incorporates a DVD that depicts a scenario of a security incident and encourages directed discussion. It also incorporates an online self-study module.
Barry DeRoze of Consolidated Safety Services said the free training promotes security awareness from the standpoint of internal threats, as opposed to School Bus Watch, which focuses on external threats. DeRoze said that as of early November, more than 300 school transportation organizations in 41 states had registered for the training program. For more information, visit www.stsatrain.com.
Dale Potts of the TSA said her agency’s focus has been on distributing the STSA training package. But the TSA also has been conducting needs-assessments of school systems and transportation providers, as well as sharing best practices. She said obtaining funding for these ventures has been “incredibly frustrating.”
In regard to School Bus Watch, Ann Henley of the NSTA said she had gotten “very positive feedback” on the program, which encourages school bus drivers to be aware of unusual activity on the road and to report any instances by calling a toll-free hotline. She said close to 50,000 drivers had been certified by early November. The program has also created $146,000 in revenue for the industry, Henley said.
The 2007 NASDPTS conference will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., from Oct. 26 to 29. For more info about the association, visit www.nasdpts.org.