When we ask readers for feedback, a comment we hear often is that they like to read about what other school bus operations are doing.

This is a great way for people in the industry — whether rookies or veterans — to learn about new solutions to common problems, innovative programs to enhance safety and, in general, what policies and practices are helping districts and contractors across the country achieve success.

One long-running series in SBF that has shared these kinds of insights on what successful operations are doing is Great Fleets Across America. In this issue, we’re presenting a fresh and interesting take on Great Fleets: “A Day in the Life of a Transportation Director."

Getting in-depth
Whereas past editions of Great Fleets have been short profiles of several outstanding school bus operations, this time we take an in-depth look at one outstanding operation: Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools.

And for this edition, Executive Editor Tom McMahon went to see the operation firsthand and even spent a full day there.

In another way, this is an extension of something else we at SBF have been doing for a long time: reader calls. Several times each year, our editors visit school transportation departments — both in the regions where they live and in areas where they travel for conferences — to see how they work and to get their input on our magazine and website. The reader calls are typically short visits, but they are great opportunities to connect with transportation directors and to gather new ideas for SBF.

For the Shelby County Schools feature, Tom traveled to Memphis, Tenn., a day early (before the national conferences in October — see stories here and here) and tagged along with Director of Transportation Debbie Rike as she went about her duties.

In addition to touring the transportation facilities and other district offices, Debbie took Tom to two schools in the district that have overcome significant school bus behavior problems.  

Reading the article, it’s clear how Debbie, who served as a special-needs teacher and administrator before joining the transportation department, uses her education background as well as her positive outlook to motivate her staff and to ensure that they are well equipped to safely transport the district’s students.

Great Fleets sequel
It’s worth noting that Shelby County Schools was one of our Great Fleets back in 2001, in the third edition of the series, so this new feature is a sequel of sorts.

Then, Mike Simpson was the director of transportation for the district. Since then, he has been promoted to chief of operations. It’s interesting to read, as we do in Tom’s article, about Mike’s transition to that new position and about how Debbie (who served as a supervisor of transportation under Mike’s leadership) has taken on the director of transportation role.

Our thanks to Debbie, Mike and the rest of the team at Shelby County Schools for sharing their fascinating operation with us — and our readers.