Larry Riggsbee, associate director at Sumner County (Tenn.) Schools and longtime advocate for pupil transportation in the state of Tennessee, has been named SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s 2005 Administrator of the Year.

The 32nd annual award was presented to Riggsbee at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference at the end of October in Austin, Texas. Riggsbee has been with Sumner County Schools since 1980. He is responsible for the daily operations and management of a transportation program that serves 28,000 students. He is also the executive director and executive secretary of the Tennessee Association of Pupil Transportation (TAPT) and chairman of the Tennessee Pupil Transportation Advisory Committee. Additionally, he recently helped launch a national school bus stamp initiative.

As a consultant, Riggsbee uses his leave time and vacation days to lend his expertise in transportation program management. He has helped conduct pupil transportation cost and management studies for various states and Tennessee counties.

Is it best for the children?
Riggsbee helped make the TAPT an independent entity, separate from the Tennessee state government, and has served two stints as president of the organization (1982 and 1995), which represents pupil transporters in all 95 counties in the state. The TAPT has become the conduit for state government in making decisions about pupil transportation. Riggsbee also helped launch the organization’s conference that draws more than 300 attendees and 45 exhibitors annually.

As chairman of the Tennessee Pupil Transportation Advisory Committee, Riggsbee and his associates are often called on to advise the state Board of Education in important matters regarding transportation.

To remind him of his mission to meet the needs of the young people he serves, Riggsbee keeps a sign above the door in his office that simply asks, “Is it best for the children?”

“I always keep that in mind and require everybody in my office to think about that anytime we’re making important decisions,” Riggsbee says. “If it’s not the best thing for the children, or if it’s not going to benefit the children in some way, then I probably won’t do it.”

School bus stamp initiative
On March 2, in Cumberland City, Tenn., school bus driver Joyce Gregory was shot and killed by one of her riders. As a reaction to that incident, Riggsbee began a campaign to create a school bus stamp — with Gregory in mind — that would honor the thousands of school bus drivers who play a vital role in the educational system and the lives of children.

Riggsbee and the TAPT soon enlisted the help of the NAPT to spread the word about the stamp campaign nationally, and together they urged pupil transportation professionals and other educational service employees to write letters to the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.

Although he doesn’t yet know what the committee’s final decision will be (he doesn’t expect to know until around 2007), Riggsbee says he is proud of the awakening and the drive that have occurred on the heels of such a traumatic experience. He also is hopeful that the group’s next national campaign will be to enlist the help of the public in designing the stamp.

As far as retirement goes, Riggsbee says that despite the fact that he’s “on the downhill side of the mountain,” he couldn’t see himself doing anything else but dedicating his time to pupil transportation.

“I just know that I’m not going to be able to go home and make birdhouses,” he says. “When my tenure is over and done here, I’m going to have to find a job in transportation somewhere.”