MESA, Ariz. — After leading Mesa Public Schools’ transportation department for eight years, Director of Transportation Ron Latko will retire at the end of this school year, but he won’t be leaving the world of pupil transportation.
Latko will be doing consulting work.
“I was sought out by a company that provides consulting to school districts in Arizona to provide the school transportation portion,” he told SBF. “I agreed to do so as an outside contractor. I then started Latko Consulting LLC. I have been contacted by school districts and some businesses around the country that may want to work with me. The work will entail anything to do with school transportation.”
Latko’s pupil transportation career began more than 12 years ago when he was semi-retired and looking for something to occupy his time. He began working as a school bus driver for Laidlaw in Illinois, and his background in management led to a promotion to supervisor shortly thereafter.
After several years, he secured a position as general manager of the company’s branches in Arizona, which he held until becoming director of transportation at Mesa Public Schools.
Latko has long been an advocate for using alternative fuels to power school buses. Last year, the district added 61 propane autogas-powered school buses to its fleet, with the goal of operating the nation’s first all-propane yellow bus fleet. Mesa Public Schools currently has 90 Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision buses.
With the propane buses that have been delivered over the last two years, the district has saved more than $800,000, and Latko estimated that the 90 buses will reduce the district’s operating costs by $3.2 million over the next five years.
Latko has helped to reduce costs for the district in other ways as well.
“Shortly after I came to the district, I instituted a program to use school buses and drivers to do field trips during normal route times instead of using charter buses,” he explained. “This gave us a net savings of $1.14 million per year.”
Additionally, he said that last year, his department implemented a program to go paperless. The project will take two years to complete.
Mesa Public Schools’ transportation department has received many accolades, particularly for its sustainability efforts, including the Sustainability All-Star Award.
Latko said one accolade that his department received and that he is especially proud of is the Dan McCarron Award, which was bestowed by Mesa Public Schools. The award is given to a school or department that has provided outstanding service to the special-education department.
Latko also spoke highly of the people with whom he has worked during his career.
“I was fortunate to have the best people to work with, and my kudos to them,” he said.
Latko's last day with Mesa Public Schools will be May 22.