Here are details on several more engaging and informative sessions at the National Association for Pupil Transportation's 2013 Summit in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October. To read the rest of our Summit coverage, go here.

Focusing on the danger zone
One of the first sessions on Monday morning of the Summit provided a grave wake-up call to the importance of educating everyone involved in student transportation on school bus safety, particularly the danger zone.

Facilitators of the session, “Driving Distracted: a Case Study,” showed the audience a training film called "School Bus Danger Zones: Jacob Wright 9 Years Later." The film addressed the issues involved in distracted driving, including manual, visual and cognitive factors. A DVD copy was distributed to audience members.

The film opened with a re-enactment of a tragic incident in Neosho, Mo.: Jacob Wright, 6, tripped and fell under his school bus and died of massive internal injuries. Jacob’s father, John Wright; brother Jeremy Wright; and mother, Terri Wright, talked about the morning the tragedy occurred, how it impacted their lives and how it led to them becoming educators on school bus safety.

After Jacob was killed, Terri Wright contacted the school district and the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation. She began telling Jacob’s story to drivers, which, she said, helped her as much as them. The Wrights felt they needed to get the information out to people who didn’t know any more about school bus safety than they had.

“We hope we can stop this from happening to another family,” Terri Wright said.

The training film emphasized the importance of the position of the bus, stop placement, driver's headcount, and educating children regularly about school bus boarding safety and the danger zone.

Terri Wright recommended regular training before school starts and before the winter holiday break. Jeremy Wright advised drivers to be more patient with the schedule and have the most mature kids give the drivers a thumbs-up when kids have crossed the street safely.

Student tracking for Medicaid reimbursement
To help districts save on one of the most costly transportation expenses they incur, Todd Zoellick, president of TransitPro Logistics Inc., outlined eligibility criteria and the process for getting reimbursed for part of the cost of transporting Medicaid-eligible special-needs students. The money saved can be used for vehicles or technology.

To illustrate his point that most districts are not aware that this type of reimbursement is available, Zoellick shared numbers from an informal study that he conducted of the 100 largest U.S. school districts: Eighty-four of them submitted responses, and 60% of those didn’t process claims. Looking at all U.S. districts, that number goes up to 80%, he said.

The key pieces of data that districts need for reimbursement are the student's IEP and the special transportation services listed, as well as the pickup and drop-off locations; and, in some states, the ID of the bus driver. If audited, this provides an extra layer of data to prove how many days of the year the students are in school and what services they receive.

Medicaid transportation billing is one of the most audited billing services in a school system, Zoellick said. He advised the audience to ensure students are being transported on vehicles modified for Medicaid-eligible students, with equipment such as lifts or restraints.

“Some districts submit claims with all the vehicles listed, which the state will not allow,” he explained.

Other concerns are taking into account the absences of the students or service providers when keeping records and using the proper state codes, since the federal funding is administered through the state.

Zoellick urged the audience to utilize an electronic method to capture the data needed; for example, some systems have students swipe cards with their data on them, which makes compiling it easier.

Rock your disability!
Victoria Arlen, a gold medal-winning para-athlete swimmer and brand ambassador for Q’Straint, shared video clips of her victories, showed off her “blinged-out" wheelchair (as she described it), and explained how she has overcome her struggles with paralysis to succeed.

Arlen was infected with a rare virus that partially paralyzed her at age 11, but that didn’t keep her on the sidelines. She went on to become a member of the U.S. Paralympic swimming team and earned one gold medal, three silvers and the world record in the women’s 200 meter freestyle.

In May 2006, Arlen became ill, and after two years of a downward spiral, she went into a vegetative state and became paralyzed.

“Imagine going to sleep one day and waking up and everything was gone,” she said.

Arlen was in that state for about three-and-a-half years. She was determined to live, she said, proving it every day by blinking and mumbling. In 2010, she began learning to eat, talk and move again.

Sports had always been the highlight of her life, she said, so when she saw the Paralympic competition in a magazine, she was determined to compete, even though many people doubted she could.

When she was in a vegetative state, the bus driver who took her to school talked to and sang to her and decorated her area of the bus. She keeps in touch with her to this day.

“Each one of you as bus drivers can make a difference in children's lives,” Arlen said. “People are quick to shut down dreams, but you can support [them].”

Currently an actress and model, Arlen plans to advocate for children with disabilities, learn to walk again and compete in an Ironman triathlon in the next few years.

Nicole Schlosser

Nicole Schlosser

Executive Editor

Nicole was an editor and writer for School Bus Fleet. She previously worked as an editor and writer for Metro Magazine, School Bus Fleet's sister publication.