ARLINGTON, Texas — Delegates from 10 states convened here this week for educational sessions on such topics as driver training strategies, stop-arm running and responding to school bus emergencies.
The Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference (SESPTC) took place July 12-15 at the Arlington Convention Center. Just outside, attendees could hear the screams of roller coaster riders at nearby Six Flags and see the massive structures of two sports stadiums, homes of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys.
SESPTC drew about 135 pupil transportation officials from states around the southeastern U.S. Some brought along their families, who ventured out into the hot weather to enjoy the area’s entertainment offerings.
But back inside the convention center, attendees focused on learning and networking. Sessions on Monday included an inspirational keynote speech by Alvin Law, who was born with no arms but learned to use his feet for daily activities — such as getting dressed and eating — as well as for numerous skills — such as playing trombone and other musical instruments.
Legal expert Peggy Burns, who plans to retire at the end of this year, gave a presentation in which she discussed questions raised by compliance standards and rules.
Later on Monday, SESPTC delegates got an update on school bus stop-arm running issues from Derek Graham, North Carolina’s state director, and Charlie Hood, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
Pupil transportation consultant George Horne shared creative approaches to training school bus drivers and attendants. He provided a list of fundamental training topics as well as other subjects that might not be addressed enough, such as communication skills, cultural sensitivity and documentation skills.
In determining which training topics to select for one’s drivers, Horne recommended being observant and reviewing complaints and accident reports, looking for patterns that should be addressed. He also suggested using educational games and free online resources, such as videos that are available on YouTube.
On Tuesday, SESPTC attendees explored a trade show in which new alternative-fuel school buses and other products from about 60 vendors were on display.
Later in the day, officials from the Arlington Police Department’s SWAT team and from Dallas County Schools gave a presentation on responding to school bus emergencies. They urged pupil transportation directors to work with their local police agencies on training opportunities, such as providing a retired school bus for them to use for hostage scenarios.
The presenters also recommended that transportation directors give local law enforcement officials “intelligence files” on all of their buses — including information on door operations, vehicle disablement and video surveillance cameras.
This year’s gathering was the 65th edition of SESPTC. The conference’s location rotates among the 14 states that make up the group. Next year, SESPTC will be held in Charleston, West Virginia.