ALLEN, Texas — With nearly 25 years of pupil transportation experience under his belt, Carl Cater plans to retire in October.
Cater, the director of transportation for Allen Independent School District (ISD), has been recognized for his training programs for school bus drivers and other staff members. For example, his department at Allen ISD has won the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s (NAPT’s) School Bus Driver Training & Safety Award twice, in 2011 and 2013.
Earlier in his career, in 1994, Cater developed a program called PAT (Passenger Assistants Training), which is a method of teaching drivers and monitors how to assist passengers with special needs. He has also furthered his own professional development by becoming a certified director of pupil transportation through NAPT and earning other certifications through the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation.
Cater’s career in transportation began in public transit. He worked as a supervisor for Dallas Area Rapid Transit from 1987 to 1993. Since then, he has held transportation management positions for several school districts, ultimately landing at Allen ISD in 2004.
In each of his roles, Cater said that he has worked to “change the culture of the transportation industry by concentrating on customer service, training, and attitude.” At Allen ISD, those efforts have translated into a decrease in parent complaints, a 98% school approval rating, and a reduction in school bus accidents. The transportation department averages 1.3 incidents or accidents per 100,000 miles.
"We count everything from mailboxes to vehicle collisions," Cater said, noting that the crash data is backed by the district's insurance company and an accounting firm audit.
Not coincidentally, Allen ISD drivers have placed well in state and international school bus safety competitions. That includes Angie Ortiz, now a Spanish teacher for the district, who credited Cater with helping her to persevere as she prepared for multiple competitions.
“Carl Cater was my biggest supporter throughout this entire journey,” she said. “When I was exhausted from it, he always had the right words for me to continue on and always do my best.” School bus security has been another area of focus for Cater. His department has made use of curriculum from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and has conducted vulnerability assessments and security exercises with the FBI and local first responders. Physical security features in the Allen ISD transportation facility include fencing, automatic locking gates, surveillance cameras, lighting, and a key control program.
In 2009, TSA personnel conducted a corporate security review of Allen ISD’s transportation department and gave it high marks.
“AISD was successful in demonstrating how the proper utilization of multiple layers of security can provide a safe and secure environment for students by mitigating a variety of threats,” Bill Arrington, highway and motor carrier branch manager for TSA, wrote in a letter to NAPT in 2013. “From training and background checks to the use of technology and physical security countermeasures, AISD showed a high level of expertise.”
Beyond providing safe and secure transportation for Allen ISD students, Cater’s department has served residents in need through its Commitment to Community project, which began in 2006.
“The purpose was to give the community the opportunity to meet the district while providing needed resources back to the community,” Cater said.
To that end, the Allen ISD transportation team has donated tons of food, thousands of toys, and about $41,000 through the Commitment to Community project over the past 10 years. This year, the department donated $9,907, which was raised in a golf tournament, to the Foundation for Allen Schools.
The Commitment to Community project is one of example of how pupil transportation has been a fulfilling vocation for Cater.
"It gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for helping others," he said of his career. "I hope my work in the community and in the transportation industry will encourage others to pay it forward."