Overseeing a fleet of more than 700 school buses, David Pace certainly has his hands full, but he has still made time to serve two terms as president of his state association and to mentor many new people entering the pupil transportation field.

Pace, longtime director of pupil transportation services at Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools, has also been a dedicated member of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and has been participating in the annual conference for the past 20 years.

He has served as a delegate for his state to the National Congress on School Transportation, and he has been instrumental in administering state and local school bus roadeos and technician competitions.

For his tireless efforts, Pace became SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s 36th Administrator of the Year at NAPT’s annual awards banquet in Louisville, Ky., in November.

As he accepted the award from SBF Publisher Frank Di Giacomo, Pace noted that when he was new to the industry, becoming involved in associations and reading SBF were key in learning the ins and outs of pupil transportation.

Over the years, Pace himself became an invaluable resource to the industry, constantly sharing his expertise on such issues as budgeting, interpreting legislation and bus stop criteria.

With the Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation, Pace has held every office, including the two terms as president. He says that one of the advantages the group provides is its close working relationship with the state Department of Education.

“I take great pride in promoting and fostering cooperation and collaboration with my peers,” Pace says. “We know we can agree to disagree, but in the final analysis, we are all committed to the safe, efficient and reliable transportation of children.”

Pace’s operation at Virginia Beach City Public Schools is one of the larger district-owned fleets in the nation. It transports nearly 60,000 students per day along 2,673 routes to 85 schools. The district also buses more than 13,000 extracurricular trips per year.

To optimize efficiency, Pace devised an innovative five-tier transportation system. He continually develops new training components and resources for his bus drivers and technicians as well as for students.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that students need to be educated on bus safety and procedures,” he says. “And who better to do that than the drivers?”

Pace has pushed for funding for technologies to enhance safety and security on the bus — including video cameras, two-way radios, GPS and child-reminder systems. He has secured grants for green efforts, such as buying CNG buses and retrofitting older buses with diesel oxidation catalysts.

Perhaps the most striking example of Pace’s advocacy for his operation can be seen in the average age of his fleet: 5.12 years. (In SBF’s 2009 Maintenance Survey, respondents’ average fleet age was 8.5 years.)

“The reason I have that kind of request and desire is because as the bus technologies change, the older that bus is, students don’t benefit from the newer safety features,” Pace says. “You have to foster those relationships with your school board and your city council to get that kind of funding.”

Pace acknowledges that pupil transportation is a challenging and often stressful line of work, but it has been a rewarding career for him for more than a quarter of a century.

“We all suffer from the same challenges — it’s just a matter of degree,” he says. “But the good thing about this profession is that people share, they want to help and they want you to succeed. It’s about people to me — dealing with good people not only in Virginia Beach, but around the state and around the nation.”