COLUMBUS, Ohio — Student transportation professionals who perform remarkable feats for the students and communities they serve were honored here at the annual National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference.
Here are the association’s 2019 award winners:
This year’s Heroism Award, sponsored by Blue Bird, was presented to Samantha Call, a school bus driver for Norwich (N.Y) Central School District. Call was credited for saving a student from getting hit by a vehicle that illegally passed her school bus in April. School bus surveillance video, posted on the district’s Facebook page, shows Call grabbing the student by his jacket as the vehicle speeds by. The video has since been viewed over 1 million times.
The Special Needs Transportation Award, sponsored by Q’Straint/Sure Lok, was given to Therese Pelicano, a transportation manager for Frederick County (Md.) Public Schools. With more than 30 years of experience, Pelicano has led several training efforts for transporting students with special needs, including a two-hour hands-on training for her transportation staff on Q'Straint's securement systems.
Winning the Continuing Education Award, sponsored by Thomas Built Buses, was Rhonda Watson, a transportation supervisor for School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties. Watson has spent more than 20 years as a school bus driver and 17 years as a school bus trainer. She hopes NAPT's Professional Development Series (PDS) will help her continue to improve her knowledge and share what she has learned with her transportation team.
NAPT’s Distinguished Service Award was presented to Peter F. Mannella, the now retired, longtime executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, and former regional director on the NAPT Board, and past chair of three NAPT committees. Mannella has worked to address several key issues in the school bus industry, including stop-arm running and advocating for school bus bullying prevention efforts nationwide, according to the association.
This year NAPT also inducted retired, longtime Anchorage (Alaska) School District transportation director Steve Kalmes into its Hall of Fame. Kalmes is a past president of the organization and has played a significant role in developing the curriculum for NAPT’s Professional Development Series, according to the association. He also helped establish the early partnership between the NAPT, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), which is now known as the American School Bus Council.
To conclude the awards ceremony, NAPT presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to Ken Hedgecock, the current vice president of sales, marketing, and service for Thomas Built Buses. Hedgecock, who recently announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2019, has dedicated his time and support to each of the national associations that represent the industry. He has served as vice president of the NAPT Foundation, as chairperson of NASDPTS Supplier Council, and has helped the NSTA develop and implement its strategic plan, according to the association.
"Thomas Built Buses has provided continuously for me since 1958, and I'm very grateful for the family they have provided for 61 years," Hedgecock told attendees during the awards ceremony. "It's truly a blessing to get up every day and do something you know makes a difference."
In addition to its conference awards, NAPT joined Zonar to announce the recipients of this year’s Don Carnahan Memorial Grants. A total of 14 school districts and transportation agencies will receive up to $50,000 in Zonar’s fleet management hardware and student tracking technology. The Zonar products include electronic verified inspection reporting (EVIR), global position system (GPS) and real-time engine diagnostic reporting (V3), student tracking (Z Pass), and Ground Traffic Control web-based software.
Here is a full list of the 2019 grant winners:
- Whittier (Calif.) Union High School District
- Brazosport (Texas) Independent School District
- Southwest Transportation Agency, Calif.
- Liberty County (Ga.) School System
- Comal (Texas) Independent School District
- Santa Fe (Texas) Independent School District
- Garden Grove (Calif.) Unified School District
- Johnstown-Milliken School District, Colo.
- Foley (Minn.) Public Schools
- Springfield (Ore.) Public Schools
- Storer Transportation, Calif.
- Antioch (Calif.) Unified School District
- West Orange (N.J.) Public Schools — Bussing
- West Orange (N.J.) for Hunterdon County
For more information on the Don Carnahan Memorial grant, go here.