Houston Independent School District (ISD) was recognized as a District of Distinction by District Administration magazine for multiple programs it created to enhance the safety and efficiency of its school bus operations.

Districts of Distinction is a national recognition program created by District Administration magazine to honor school districts that are leading the way with new ideas that are yielding quantifiable benefits and that could be replicated by other districts.

The district received the award for its school bus tracker, safety and security school bus training, and greening the school bus fleet programs.

Andres Montes, senior manager of fleet operations for Houston ISD, told SBF that the Houston ISD transportation department was the only school bus provider in the nation recognized for this award. Over 130 applicants applied but only about 50 were selected for this first-time award, he added.

In 2012, Houston ISD created its school bus tracker computer program, an arrival-and-departure screen tool that enables students and administrators to track bus arrival and departure times. The program works with the buses’ GPS to reflect bus delays. The initiative reduced complaints.

Then, in the 2012-13 school year, the district added American Red Cross first aid and CPR training for in-house safety trainers, as well as courses in crisis prevention as part of its safety and security school bus training program. Afterward, Houston ISD trained more than 1,000 school bus drivers and aides. The district also produced a video to make children and parents aware of bus safety rules. These training efforts helped reduce the number of student incidents on the buses, and drivers and aides reported feeling safer.

The district also made its fleet “greener” by securing nearly $3 million in grants to buy propane-powered buses and a fueling station. Nearly 10% of the district's buses are now powered by propane, and 90% are powered by biodiesel.

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