ALBANY, N.Y. — As a pupil transportation veteran here steps down, he returns to his career beginnings at the association he worked for as a new leader takes the helm.
Peter Mannella, former executive director of the New York Association of Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), retired on Sept. 30. He had officially held the position since 2004, although he started with a lobbying firm in 1995 that worked for the association.
In 2004, NYAPT opened its formal headquarters, with Mannella and one other staff member.
Since then, he has informed the association’s membership of key legislation and important issues related to school transportation, such as illegal passing, drug and alcohol testing, and driver training, and advocated for more attention and funding for these issues.
He has worked hard to get members “in the room” when, for instance, New York's State Department of Education had set up work groups on bullying in schools, school security, and anti-terrorism measures.
“We made sure those conversations included school buses and school bus drivers,” he said.
Looking back on his career with NYAPT, Mannella said he is especially proud of an agreement between the association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 to reduce idling, retrofit school buses, and review alternative-fuel buses as options.
Another accomplishment that stands out for him is a program he helped implement for The Cyr Foundation to train drivers and monitors on laws governing bullying and discrimination of students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning their gender.
In retirement, Mannella will circle back to the very work he was doing at the start of his career: lobbying part-time for NYAPT. He is also focusing on his new company, Policy Matters, which he will use to help people develop messaging on issues of importance to them.
Spending more time with family, particularly his grandchildren, is another priority.
“It’s time for my family to have a little more of me. I have been a 65-hour a week guy since I started,” he said. “This will be a good chance to step back a bit.”
Over the years, although Mannella said he has been “in the room with presidents, governors, and actors,” he noted that he has never seen people who are more dedicated to their work than those in school transportation.
“You don’t hear transportation people talking about money and retirement programs; they’re always talking about how to make it better for kids,” he said. “There’s nothing nobler than that. It’s been my personal honor to work with them.”
Read more here about Mannella, who was selected as one of School Bus Fleet’s “10 Fascinating People in Pupil Transportation” in the November issue.
David Christopher, NYAPT’s new executive director, brings substantial experience of his own to the role. He has been a member of the association since the 1980s, has served as president, vice president, and treasurer, and had worked in various positions as a school transportation director or manager for over 30 years.
As Mannella will continue to advocate for NYAPT with state officials, school districts, and partners such as the New York School Boards Association, the Association of School Business Officials, and the PTA, Christopher will focus on professional development for members, with conferences, regional workshops, and a certification program.
As many longtime NYAPT members have retirement plans on the horizon, many others are new to the business, and must soon be ready to fill the gaps that will be left behind in management staffing, Christopher noted.
“We want to try to get them ready for the job and help them out as they attain those positions.”