Looking for a simpler life was what spurred Marc Raposo, the president of the New Hampshire School Transportation Association and operations manager for a school bus company, to transition from working in the finance industry into the world of pupil transportation. He planned to drive a school bus for a year while he figured out his next step. He ended up enjoying it so much that he stayed with Community Transportation, which serves the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative and Mascenic Regional school districts in the southern part of the state, and getting increasingly involved in the industry over the last nearly decade and a half.
In this interview with School Bus Fleet, Raposo talks about running a state association with virtual meetings since the pandemic hit, members’ concerns about drivers feeling comfortable enough to get behind the wheel again (some districts in the state began offering in-person instruction in mid-August), and the pride he feels in being a part of an association in which competing businesses team up for safe student transportation.
1. How did you get your start in pupil transportation?
I worked in high-tech corporate American finance for over 25 years and needed a break. I quit my job and decided to take a year off to live an easier life. I drove by a school bus terminal and saw the “We are hiring” sign and thought, ‘OK, I can do that for a year.’ That was 2006. I never went back.
2. What kind of work have you done for the New Hampshire School Transportation Association?
In New Hampshire, we are the one association that has membership from public school districts and private contractors. I joined the board of directors in 2008 and have been president for five years now.
This was supposed to be my last year, but given COVID-19 and going remote, I agreed to finish out one more year. I also serve on our Legislation and Training committees. I am extremely proud of the dedicated professionals on our board who volunteer many hours of their time.
3. What are you working on for the association, now that the pandemic has significantly limited in-person meetings, conferences, and training? Is the association holding any of these events virtually?
This has been a challenge. All of our board meetings have been via Zoom [since March], and I have been very impressed with the response.
It was sad we couldn’t have had our annual meeting in person — we had it via Zoom — and present our annual scholarships to the recipients; however, we will be sure to get a picture and put it in our next newsletter. We typically do not have a board meeting throughout the summer, but we have scheduled a weekly “informal Zoom” every Tuesday just to keep up on what is going on industry-wise here in New Hampshire.
The inability to host in-person training for drivers and trainers to obtain their state-required training hours and being together has been challenging, but our Training committee is actively working on alternate solutions.
4. Can you share some of the biggest concerns and ideas you are hearing from association members about providing safe school transportation as in-person instruction gets underway amid the pandemic?
Every district in New Hampshire creates their own plan and determines instruction, be it in-person, hybrid, or remote. There is no state mandate on how to implement it, so it’s up to the district to determine and work with their transportation provider on requirements.
The biggest concerns I have heard are about driver availability, who will return when recalled, and the unknown regarding the federal unemployment compensation. Unlike other positions, drivers cannot work from home. Many may be nervous about returning for both their safety and others in their household.
Recruiting and hiring is difficult at best. Getting applicants is challenging.
Also, social distancing on a school bus certainly limits seating capacity, so districts and contractors continue to strategize and meet the needs based on their requirements.
5. What do you like most about working in pupil transportation?
Here in New Hampshire, working with our association is something I am proud to be a part of. We have board members who represent school districts and private contractors, and although we may be competitors, you would never realize it when we operate as an association. Everyone is here to represent the safe transportation of the students of our state.