In “5 Ways to Gain Support From School Boards” from our March 2014 issue, pupil transportation officials at school districts and bus companies offer tips that can help in getting school board members to become advocates for the yellow bus, from making yourself visible and available to sharing positive stories about your operation.
Here are a few more tips, as well as insight on efforts at operations that have been successful in establishing positive relations with school board members on specific issues.
Tips for effective board meeting presentations
Michael Shields, director of transportation and auxiliary services at Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore., offers the following advice when giving a presentation at a school board meeting.
• Understand the formal structure of the board, and recognize the board president, vice president and the district’s superintendent before you start speaking.
• Don’t use jargon or language that’s school bus industry specific.
• If you are asked a question by a board member who is requiring very specific information, thank him or her for the question and say you’ll get back to him or her. Don’t go into a lot of detail at the meeting.
• If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, thank the board member for the question, and say that you’ll get back to him or her with the information.
Denver Public Schools’ community engagement meetings
Denver Public Schools Executive Director of Transportation Services Nicole Portee says her operation organizes community engagement meetings — which school board members have attended — to respond to initiatives from community members, or items related to transportation that they want to see changed.
A series of these meetings were held from August to December last year, for example, and they addressed transportation to and from schools of choice and more access to transportation in a southwest community served by Denver Public Schools. Portee says that stakeholders and board members were invited to these meetings. (Stakeholders, Portee says, are individuals who have worked with board members through community organizations.)
“We heard from the community about some of their concerns around transportation,” Portee says, “and we educated our board members about the work that we do. It responded to many of the concerns that were brought to our board of education around transportation, and it allowed us to work collaboratively with the school, the community, the organizations and parents to come up with a solution for that particular campus without interrupting or taking away something from other schools in that region.”
Subcommittees can advise the board
Ron Ernenwein, president of AA Transportation in Shrewsbury, Mass., says one challenge he has faced is getting board members for the school districts the company serves to understand their route constraints — some districts have outgrown the time allotments for each tier of the route due to increased traffic or ridership, or additional stops on routes.
“The simplest way to get over this hurdle was to ask the board to create a subcommittee, which only included a few members,” he explains. “Then I met with the subcommittee and actually drove them on a few of the bus routes. It was immediately clear that the situation was as I described. I was able to give them a huge amount of historical data, including bus times at each point of the system. This information, along with their firsthand account of the bus rides, gave them some insight to go back to the full committee and present non-biased information.”