TAMPA, Fla. — Industry veteran Jim Beekman next month will take the reins of transportation at Hillsborough County Public Schools, which runs one of the largest public school bus operations in the U.S. and has had its share of difficulties this year.
Beekman has more than 30 years of experience in the pupil transportation industry. He currently serves as senior director of transportation services at Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida.
Beekman told SBF that he is slated to leave the Orange County district on Friday, Oct. 10. The following Monday, he will start at Hillsborough as general manager of transportation.
Beekman will replace John Franklin, who resigned in April after having served as Hillsborough’s general manager of transportation for seven years.
In an announcement issued after Franklin’s resignation, Hillsborough district officials said that Franklin “steered the transportation department through a very eventful time of change and challenges.”
Hillsborough transportation made headlines earlier this year for a flurry of issues, such as staff turmoil and an aging fleet. The district has been working on a multifaceted plan to make improvements in the department based on input from a consultant and its own employees.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia held meetings with transportation staff members this summer, WFLA reported, and the school board approved the purchase of 100 new buses.
Hillsborough runs one of the largest public school bus operations in the U.S., with about 948 route buses transporting more than 88,000 students daily. Orange County’s operation is of a similar size: about 903 route buses transporting 72,000 students daily.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Hillsborough district officials were impressed by the transportation initiatives that Beekman has carried out at Orange County. For example, he implemented numerous steps to make the district’s transportation operation more efficient, resulting in a savings of more than $6.5 million, as SBF reported in 2012.
Beekman, who started his career in the school bus industry in 1983 as a diesel mechanic, is optimistic about the potential to make improvements at Hillsborough.
“I am looking forward to the challenge. They have had some significant transportation issues, but they also have a leadership team that is focused in the support of the department and the employees that work there," Beekman told SBF.
Orange County has not yet named a successor for Beekman, but he said that a national search would begin soon.