Gwinnett County driver saves choking student

Here, Grant Reppert, director of transportation at Gwinnett County Public Schools, describes how one of the district’s drivers saved the life of a choking student. The description is from an application for a Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation valor award, which the driver won.

On Dec. 15, 2008, Dreana Trent was transporting her Norton Elementary School special-needs students home when one of them started choking on some hard candy.

Ms. Trent stopped the bus as quickly as she could in traffic and immediately went back to help. The student was not breathing. She immediately pulled him out of the seat and performed the Heimlich maneuver. This did not successfully revive the student.

Concurrently, she directed her student helper, Olamide Popolla, to radio to dispatch and explain the emergency. When the student did not start breathing in response to the Heimlich, Ms. Trent laid him on the floor in the aisle and performed CPR to revive the student.

During this time, she was also directing the student helper, who was on the radio with Carol Ann Zeppenfeld in our dispatch office. After repeated efforts with CPR, Ms. Trent was able to get the student breathing.

Ms. Trent, in anticipating the need for student assistance, had trained Mr. Popolla on radio procedures so he would be confident in what to do should the need arise. Ms. Trent’s quick response, training and emergency planning saved the life of that child.

Just a month prior to this incident, Ms. Trent and Ms. Zeppenfeld were renewing their CPR certification together. At that time, Ms. Trent told Ms. Zeppenfeld that she did not know if she could ever perform CPR in an actual emergency.

The student who talked on the radio, Mr. Popolla, was a new homeless student who was assigned to Ms. Trent’s bus route. Ms. Trent made an excellent decision to use him as her assistant in case of emergencies.

Ms. Trent was recognized by the American Red Cross for extraordinary personal action.

In summary, Ms. Trent saved this child’s life right before the Christmas holidays, and I would like to nominate her for the Danny Hendricks Valor Award.


Clark County maintains service despite budget cut

LAS VEGAS — Clark County School District had to cut more than $5 million from its transportation budget, but the operation has employed a few strategies to maintain the same level of service.

Frank Giordano, director of transportation, said that consolidating routes and a midday park-out program had been effective techniques in compensating for some of the lost budget dollars.

“We leave the majority of our buses at select schools to eliminate ‘dead head’ miles during our midday break,” Giordano said. “This program alone has the potential of saving us almost half a million dollars.”

Giordano was recently promoted to the director position at the district’s transportation department, where he has worked for more than 27 years. He shared several other noteworthy developments from his operation:

For the second year in a row, Clark County School District won the state school bus driver roadeo.

The operation recently received its ISO 9001:2000 recertification.

Over the past year, the district outfitted almost 1,000 of its diesel buses with exhaust aftertreatment equipment.

The district has on order one of Thomas Built Buses’ new Saf-T-Liner C2e hybrid school buses. “We’re hoping to have it in late October,” Giordano said.

All of the operation’s buses currently run on B5 biodiesel. “We were running B20, but due to the budget crisis, we are at the B5 blend now,” Giordano said.


Bell time shift could save $1.2M at Brevard

COCOA, Fla. — In order to decrease transportation costs, Brevard District Schools turned to its bell times.

By adding 15 minutes in between elementary and secondary bell times, Director of Transportation Mike Connors said that the district expects to bring its number of bus routes from 436 down to 402.

At press time, school was just starting in the district, so “it will take a little time for us to validate the savings from our plan,” Connors said. But the estimated saving is about $1.2 million.

Below is what the old and new schedules look like. Connors noted that the actual student drop-off at the elementary schools is no later than 7:45 a.m.

Old Bell Times
Elementary 8:00-2:30
High School 8:30-3:15
Middle 9:15-4:00
New Bell Times
Elementary 8:00-2:30
High School 8:45-3:30
Middle 9:30-4:15

Bus rider program cuts referrals by more than half

MARIETTA, Ga. — With the goal of increasing school bus safety, Cobb County School District implemented an innovative program for student management.

Since the Safe Rider Program was launched last year, bus referrals have dropped 58 percent. Executive Director of Transportation Rick Grisham said that the district expects them to continue to drop 5 to 10 percent each year that the program is in place.

The Safe Rider Program is targeted toward middle school students, but Grisham said that it’s effective for all grade levels.

The district sends a letter to parents explaining the program in detail. The key components are:


  • A hierarchy of the discipline structure, starting with the driver.
  • A Safe Rider contract signed by parents and students.
  • A Safe Rider class during non-instructional time.
  • Greater transportation department presence at the “Sneak-a-Peek” before school, and transportation representation and presentations at open houses and parent/teacher/student meetings.
  • Personnel available at the schools from 4:30-5:30 p.m. or beyond to accept students who need to be removed from the bus for safety reasons, in which case parents are called to pick them up.

    The program promotes instant accountability for unsafe behavior. On the trip home, if unsafe behavior occurs before the bus leaves school, the student will be given two options: Correct the behavior and continue home (with the behavior being documented) or (2) be removed from the bus and stay at school with staff supervision until a parent or guardian can pick the student up.

    If unsafe behavior occurs after the bus leaves the school, the driver will call his or her field coordinator. The field coordinator will then meet the bus and assess the situation. If necessary, the field coordinator will remove the student from the bus and return him or her to school to remain under staff supervision until a parent or guardian can pick the student up.
  • In either case, a graduated discipline plan goes into effect. A first offense for a middle school student includes being reassigned to the front of the bus for a week, parents being contacted and a student/driver conference. The disciplinary actions increase for subsequent offenses, culminating in the transportation director recommending that the student be suspended from the bus for the rest of the year.

    The Safe Ride Program has not been restricted to Cobb County School District. This summer, district transportation staff gave a keynote presentation on it at the Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation conference. At least one other district in the state has implemented the program, and Grisham said that his department is available to present it to others.


    Columbus City Schools wins award for reducing emissions

    The transportation and fleet services departments at Columbus (Ohio) City Schools won the 2009 Clean Air Award, presented by Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (as reported in the July 2009 issue). The district’s director of transportation services, Steve Simmons, explains the many efforts that led to the award.

    We received grants totaling over $2.5 million to replace or retrofit CCS buses.

    We applied for and received an $88,440 grant from the Ohio EPA that allowed us to retrofit 88 buses with diesel oxidation catalysts. The project was completed in 2006.

    We adopted idle regulations in December 2006. The regulations seek to reduce exposure to particulate matter by limiting unnecessary idling. This also reduces the use of fuel.

    Also in 2006, we purchased 10 new buses with clean-burning engines. Six of the engines have pre-heaters installed.

    In 2008, we applied for and received an $86,243.82 grant from the Ohio EPA that will allow us to install closed crankcase filtration systems on 78 buses and engine pre-heaters on 26 buses.

    Also in 2008, we obtained a bond that will allow us to replace $22 million worth of buses with new, cleaner-emission buses.

    We received a $98,752.99 grant from the Ohio EPA in 2009 that will allow us to install closed crankcase filtration systems on a total of 53 buses, diesel oxidation catalysts on 35 buses and engine pre-heaters on 18 buses.

    We applied for and received a $1,155,300 grant from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant that will allow us to replace 15 1990 model year buses with new buses.

    And finally, we applied for and received a $1,117,998 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will allow us to replace six 1990 model year buses with new hybrid diesel-electric buses.


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