AUSTIN, Texas — Software developer Transfinder Corp. presented its third annual Ambassador of the Year award to Kecia Ling, the director of transportation operations at Savannah-Chatham County (Ga.) Public School System.
Ling was named Ambassador of the Year during Transfinder’s three-day Annual Client Summit held in Austin, Texas, last week.
“I’m excited and blessed,” Ling said. “The reason I say blessed is this award allowed me to know I have a very dedicated staff and dedicated partners from Transfinder to help us make routing work for over 26,000 students in four months. I do feel like this is a team award.”
Transfinder President and CEO Antonio Civitella said that with more than 1,800 clients, it takes a special story to be considered for the award.
“Kecia Ling truly represents what the Ambassador of the Year award is all about,” Civitella said. “She and her team faced difficult odds building a transportation department, learning new software, and getting ready not just for the first day of school in the fall, but the start of summer school. To learn the software and build routes in four months was a huge undertaking. And then to use our software to deal with the logistics nightmare caused by Hurricane Matthew in October made her an obvious choice for this year’s award.”
Ling said the district learned in February 2016 that it would not be turning to its third-party busing company for transportation in the fall. That left her with the need to build her team and learn Transfinder, a software system that was different from what the previous vendor had used.
“Our routers were familiar with a previous routing software and so for many years they used that one particular software,” Ling said. “Getting the routers accustomed to a new software was our biggest challenge. Transfinder really made it happen for us. They did a lot of the routing work themselves. We had 376 routes and with this software we’ve been able to cut down to 314 routes.”
Ling said her team worked 13-hour days for two months straight to be ready for summer school and the fall opening.
After a smooth opening, “then we had the hurricane,” Ling said. “Using Transfinder software we were easily able to identify which of our students live on Tybee Island, which is a part of Savannah which has one road in and one road out and is surrounded by water. It was very easy to work with Transfinder software so we could build our emergency preparedness plan.”
The district used Transfinder software to adjust bell schedules (start times) for students that coordinated with high tide, when transportation on and off the island is impossible. In the west side of Savannah, the district used Transfinder software to identify families in need of housing and transport them to emergency facilities.
School had closed for more than a week, and when it reopened, Ling and her team used Transfinder software to create new routes for students scattered in different locations from where they were when the school year started.
“They were in hotels, homeless shelters and living with different family members all over the town. We had to transport them from wherever they ended up to and from school,” said Andrea Wiggins, a router with Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. “It was a whole lot easier with Transfinder.”
Wiggins said the Ambassador of the Year award for Ling was “well deserved. She goes above and beyond for us all the time.”
The award was given before more than 250 school transportation officials from 36 states and two Canadian provinces who attended the conference.