LAS VEGAS — Diana Hollander, the Nevada state director of pupil transportation and seasoned school transportation veteran, will soon retire after serving the industry for nearly 25 years.
Hollander had always worked in the education field, embarking on her career just after she graduated high school, at the school district she attended as a teacher’s aide, she told School Bus Fleet.
"My mother worked at and retired from the school district, and helped me get my first job," Hollander said.
After that, she moved on to a position in the Parks and Recreation Department where she ran school programs, and then worked at the nearby community college in the Admissions and Financial Aid Departments.
Hollander was hired by the Nevada Department of Education (DOE) in 1995 as the administrative assistant to the director of teacher licensing and pupil transportation. Soon after, the director went on medical leave and eventually retired. She offered to step in until a new director was hired, became the next state director and program officer, “and never looked back.”
“School transportation has been with me [ever since], and I am so glad that I raised my hand that day,” Hollander said.
At the DOE, Hollander has had dual job responsibilities: in addition to working on school transportation program oversight, as well as teacher licensing, and child nutrition, she has also been in charge of emergency management. She has worked for 17 directors and five superintendents over the course of her 24-year career, she added.
Her biggest challenge when starting out, Hollander said, was learning about school buses and the many regulations that govern pupil transportation.
“I had never driven a school bus, had no knowledge of school buses, and didn’t even take the school bus to school as a child,” Hollander said. “It took a long time to learn local, state, and federal regulations, and how to find information in order to assist schools. I always said it took me 10 years to be good and 20 years to be really good.”
During her tenure, Hollander has also been the Nevada state director for the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), which connects state directors with federal regulators school bus manufacturers, suppliers, and other industry groups. She served as president of the organization from 2016 to 2018.
One of the toughest challenges that the industry has faced, Hollander said, has been changing the negative impression that some parents have of the yellow bus.
“We need to do a better job promoting the great safety record of the school bus and be more open to change,” she said.
However, Hollander did note that over the last nearly two-and-a-half decades she has worked in pupil transportation, she has seen changes increasingly being embraced.
“School buses are the safest mode of ground transportation and that is certainly something to celebrate, but the conversation has shifted from 'We are the safest,' to 'How can we be safer?'” Hollander said. “How can we prevent all fatalities and injuries? New technologies are far more accepted today than 20 years ago.”
The acceptance and substantial growth of the use of lap-shoulder belts in school buses has been the most historical change she has seen, Hollander added. (NASDPTS officially changed its position on lap-shoulder belts in school buses in 2014 — from supporting them if they were funded to backing them regardless of funding.)
Additionally, in 2017, Nevada mandated lap-shoulder belts on new school buses purchased on or after July 1, 2019.
Throughout her career, Hollander has been inspired by the passion and dedication to children from people who work in student transportation.
“That also goes for the school bus industry folks who always come together for the common good,” she added. “It has always motivated me to be a better person.”
Hollander will officially retire on Nov. 8. She plans to spend more time on hobbies, including cooking, gardening, traveling, reading, and getting more exercise and going to more parties.
“I’m going to participate in things I sometimes didn’t get to [before] because I was always working,” she said.