<p>Jessica McMillion of Wilson's Bus Service Inc. in Millersville, Md. (center), is one of the recipients of NSTA's Golden Merit Award. Photo courtesy NSTA</p>

AUSTIN, Texas — Several school bus drivers were recognized for their safety skills and contractors were honored for providing exceptional service at the National School Transportation Association’s (NSTA’s) 55th annual meeting.

In conjunction with the meeting, NSTA hosted the 49th School Bus Driver International Safety Competition at the Hays Community Independent School District transportation facility in Kyle, Texas, on Saturday and Sunday.

The contestants, who qualified in state-level competitions, began the International Safety Competition with an orientation and written exam testing their understanding of the rules of the road on Saturday. The next day, drivers got behind the wheel and completed a road course. They competed in one of three categories: small bus, conventional, or transit.   

Here are the top contestants in the 2019 School Bus Driver International Safety Competition: 

Small Bus

First Place: John Labus, Cabell County (W.Va.) Schools
Second Place: Dodo Freerksen, First Student – Alberta, Canada
Third Place: Sally Musolino, North Clackamas School District, Ore.
Honorable Mention: Melissa Mesler, First Student – Anoka, Minn.

Conventional Bus

First Place: Billy Wiseman, Kanawha County (W.Va.) Schools
Second Place: Mark Siersma, Troup County (Ga.) School System
Third Place: Larry Hannon Jr., Centennial School District, Pa.
Honorable Mention: Ruth Del Vecchio, Krapf School Bus, Pa.

Transit Bus

First Place: Mark Miller, Bellingham (Wash.) Public Schools 
Second Place: Sergio Duenas, Durham School Services, Calif.  
Third Place: Delene Lewis, Allen (Texas) Independent School District
Honorable Mention: Derek Bosserman, Tahoe Truckee (Calif.) Unified School District

In addition, Laura Gray and Todd Gray, daughter and son of former International School Bus Driver Safety Competition competitor Gregory Gray of Owasso (Okla.) Public Schools, were honored as 2018 Transburo Scholarship recipients. Gregory competed in the competition five times, and the Gray family served as competition judges this year.  

Laura attends Roger State University where she is working on her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a focus on Environmental Conservation. Todd also attends Roger State University, where he, too, is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, but with a concentration on Molecular Science. He plans a future in genetics. Both students were awarded $1,000 scholarships.

“NTSA is honored to host this event, and we are proud of the men and women who participate. These drivers exude skill and professionalism, and they represent the very best that the school transportation industry has to offer,” said Blake Krapf, past president of NSTA. “Not all the great drivers made it to Austin, so when you have the opportunity, please say thank you to your child’s school bus driver.”
Also in Austin, NSTA presented its annual industry awards at a banquet on Tuesday. Here are the recipients:

• Golden Merit Award: This award recognizes excellence in service, safety, and community responsibility. The 2019 recipients are Rick Klaus and Rhonda McKown of National Express in Warrenville, Ill.; Jessica McMillion of Wilson's Bus Service Inc. in Millersville, Md.; and Michael Pipenhagen of Kottkes' Bus Service Inc. in Andover, Minn.

• Outstanding Driver Service Award: This honor is given to school bus drivers who have demonstrated exemplary safety performance and a commitment to excellence. This year’s recipients are Olga Quezada and Sonia Campos of Suffolk Transportation in Bay Shore, N.Y., and Raychole Brown of Krapf School Bus in Newark, Del.  

• Hall of Fame Award: This award recognizes excellence in long-term efforts on behalf of pupil transportation. The 2019 recipient is Kellie Dean of Dean Transportation in Lansing, Mich.  

• Meritorious Service Award: This honor recognizes individuals who have displayed unparalleled vision, support, and leadership toward improving school transportation, the promotion of NSTA, and the school bus industry. For 2019, NSTA honored Jennifer Hickey Bruce of CCi Consulting in Latham, N.Y. 

• Distinguished Service Award: This award recognizes special contributions made to pupil transportation contracting. The 2019 winner is Bree Allen, formerly of The Trans Group in Kingston, N.Y.

• Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education and Professional Growth Grant: This grant is given to an NSTA member contractor or staff member to support continuing education. The 2019 recipient is Peggy Nieuwenhuis of Dousman (Wis.) Transport Co.

Also at the NSTA ceremony, School Bus Fleet presented its 2019 Contractor of the Year award. This year’s recipient is Michael Wagner of Lakeview Bus Lines in Illinois.

"I want to personally commend all the award winners on their contributions to the field of student transportation,” Krapf added. “Each year, as an organization, we come together to honor our friends and colleagues at this event. This program not only gives us an opportunity to reward service and volunteerism, it also serves as an industry-wide celebration of our collective achievements.”

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