TUCSON, Ariz. — The transportation team at Tucson Unified School District welcomed two noteworthy visitors to their bus yard on Wednesday: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The duo was supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s “Strong Start, Bright Future” back-to-school bus tour, and as SBF previously reported, they scheduled a visit to the Tucson bus yard to “discuss how school bus drivers are on the front lines of school safety efforts as students begin and end their day."
Officials for the American School Bus Council (ASBC) told SBF that Duncan and Foxx thanked the bus drivers, mechanics and administrators who keep the buses running at Tucson Unified.
Once they prepared to board a school bus to ride along on a route, they were greeted by representatives from each ASBC member organization, including the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), Blue Bird Corp., Thomas Built Buses, IC Bus and Navistar.
Duncan and Foxx rode with administrators from Tucson Unified on the bus to Dodge Traditional Magnet Middle School. While on board, ASBC officials said that Foxx and Duncan chatted with the approximately 30 students who were picked up on the route.
Foxx and Duncan were met by members of the media upon arrival at the school, who asked about the relationship between school bus transportation and education.
“Secretary Foxx quickly responded that school buses are the safest way to get to and from school,” ASBC said.
They also noted the importance of school buses in community service, recognizing the role that yellow buses play in emergency evacuations.
“We thank Secretaries Duncan and Foxx for their recognition of the vital contribution school buses make to education for all students, and we commend Secretary Foxx, in particular, for his acknowledgement that school buses are the safest form of transportation available,” NSTA President Tim Flood said. “The partnership between the Departments of Education and Transportation, with the yellow school bus linking the two, is of vital importance to the school transportation industry, and we look forward to continuing this partnership in the days and years to come.”
Don Carnahan, president-elect of NAPT, expressed a similar sentiment.
"I think it's great that Secretary Duncan's back-to-school event included school transportation," he told SBF. "It's good to get some recognition about what it takes to get students to and from school, and how yellow buses make that happen and help with the education of students. I hope that as long as they continue to do these back-to-school events, the yellow school bus ride is included as part of the event."
Max Christensen, president of NASDPTS, added, “The day of Secretaries Duncan and Foxx’s stop in Tucson was a great day to be in the school bus business! It was fun, it was informational, and I think it put a huge feather in the cap of the ASBC and the school transportation industry in general.”
During their visit in the school, Duncan and Foxx spoke with eighth grade social studies students about what they do, and also about Sept. 11 remembrance. The secretaries and ASBC members then joined students in the school cafeteria to make “kindness coins.”
“The students, secretaries and school bus industry officials painted the clay coins, which Dodge students use to reward and encourage kindness in and out of school,” ASBC explained. “At a brief ceremony in the cafeteria, both secretaries were given kindness coins to use, as well as an extra bag of coins to deliver to Washington, D.C., as a means of encouraging our elected and unelected leaders to work better together.”
Also on the day's agenda for Duncan was a stop at Sunnyside High School to see how technology is being used to empower educators and engage students, a community town hall at Arizona State University and a visit to the "Healing Field" memorial in Tempe, Ariz., to honor victims and first responders of the Sept. 11 attacks.