Chris Yarber (left), the national accounts manager for Sure-Lok, presented Therese Pelicano, a transportation manager for Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools, with this year's NAPT, Q'Straint/Sure-Lok Special Needs Transportation award. Photo courtesy Q'Straint

Chris Yarber (left), the national accounts manager for Sure-Lok, presented Therese Pelicano, a transportation manager for Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools, with this year's NAPT, Q'Straint/Sure-Lok Special Needs Transportation award. Photo courtesy Q'Straint

As the winner of this year’s National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and Q’Straint/Sure-Lok Special Needs Transportation award, special-needs expert Therese Pelicano is planning to use her award winnings to enhance wheelchair securement training for her district's transportation staff.

Pelicano, a transportation manager for Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools, was presented with the award during this year’s NAPT conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Pelicano, as well as every driver and trainer in her district, will receive free enrollment in Q’Straint’s Wheelchair Securement 101, an online training course designed to teach transportation personnel how to properly secure passengers who use wheelchairs, according to a news release from the securement supplier. She will also receive a $500 grant for additional education funding.

The NAPT Special Needs Transportation Award — now in its 25th year — was designed to honor a pupil transportation professional for their efforts in making school transportation the safest, most effective way of getting students to and from school, according to Q’Straint.

“I am honored and humbled to win the NAPT Special Needs Transportation award presented by Q’Straint/Sure-Lok,” Pelicano said. “It’s nice to be recognized by the industry that you work in. I have been doing this a long time and I am very passionate about student transportation safety.”

Frederick County Public Schools currently operates a fleet of approximately 400 buses spanning 800 square miles, covering 66 schools — in addition to providing transportation service to 28 non-public schools.

Pelicano said she intends to use Q’Straint’s Securement 101 to enhance the district’s existing training program for its drivers and maintenance technicians.

“Therese’s knowledge and expertise are an asset to our school system. She has played a vital role in establishing and providing a comprehensive, hands-on training program,” said Jeannie Thompson, another transportation manager for Frederick County Public Schools. “Therese is always looking for ways to provide additional education and support for her immediate staff and for the school staff who may come into contact with buses.”

Sara Scovitch, the physical therapy supervisor for the district, added that Pelicano has built strong relationships with Frederick County Public Schools’ occupational and physical therapists and even developed a joint training program for the physical therapy department and transportation team.

“A lot of school district transportation departments do not have a relationship with their physical therapists. It is really important to work closely together since our departments interact with each other,” Pelicano said. “When they are working in unison it becomes a more seamless journey for the kids. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Everyone wins when we learn from each other.”

In addition to providing new training initiatives for her district, Pelicano has conducted training for the state of Maryland for students in safety seats and for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pelicano has also contributed as a source to several SBF articles on special-needs transportation, from getting school bus drivers and aides involved in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process to understanding and managing challenging special-needs student behavior.

In terms of Pelicano's future, she said that she plans to work in pupil transportation safety training on a national level, offering her skills and expertise on wheelchair securement to school districts across the country.

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