GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Outstanding pupil transportation professionals were in the spotlight here on Sunday night at the annual National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) awards banquet.

The event included a moving tribute to Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr., the Alabama school bus driver who was slain in the line of duty in January.

Poland, a driver for Dale County Schools, was fatally shot while protecting his passengers from an armed intruder, who then took a 5-year-old boy hostage for nearly a week.

At the NAPT banquet, Poland’s daughter Lydia Poland Hancock accepted the Heroism Award on his behalf.

Honorees at the awards ceremony included:

• Heroism Award (sponsored by Blue Bird Corp.) — Charles Poland Jr. (posthumous), Dale County Schools, Ozark, Ala.

• NAPT Distinguished Service Award — Alexandra Robinson, New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation and outgoing NAPT president

• Continuing Education Award (sponsored by Thomas Built Buses) — Donelda Williams, Independence (Mo.) School District

• Special Needs Transportation Award (sponsored by Sure-Lok) — Dr. Linda Bluth, Maryland State Department of Education and past NAPT president

• School Bus Driver Training & Safety Award (sponsored by IC Bus) — Allen (Texas) Independent School District

SCHOOL BUS FLEET’s Administrator of the Year — Alfred Karam, Bethlehem Central School District, Delmar, N.Y. (see story here)

• America’s Best School Bus Technician: Patrick Maloney, Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, Colo.

• America’s Best School Bus Inspector: Casey Middleton, Tulsa (Okla.) Public Schools

STN Leadership Award: John Benish Jr., Cook-Illinois Corp., Oak Forest, Ill.