In 1982, I was a scrawny, short, nerdy kid with Coke bottle glasses, ripe for bullying by tougher teens on Bus No. 248. But I had secret weapons that proved surprisingly effective at fending off abuse:
A Sears electric typewriter, sheafs of onion skin paper, and an imagination fueled by Star Trek, Star Wars, and the books of Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke.
I crafted an ongoing saga – As the Wheels Turn – that featured my fellow Winter Park High School students as heroes of the adventure. I’d pass around the latest installment while the bus rumbled down State Road 50 in Orlando, usually with AC/DC blasting “Hell’s Bells” or “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” from a boombox somewhere behind me.
We didn’t have stop-arm cameras, GPS monitoring, or Wi-Fi hotspots. And if you’d told me back then that nearly 40 years later it’d be my job to help spread the word about issues and innovations surrounding pupil transportation…
…well, OK, I’d probably believe you, because I knew in high school that I wanted to be a writer, maybe even a journalist, and community news comes in many forms.
So here I am, settling in as the new executive editor of School Bus Fleet. I’m honored to join this team and I look forward to meeting the great folks who make up the pupil transportation industry.
In the decades since I wrote my way out of perpetual intimidation, I’ve covered crime, courts, county government, and development for The St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times). I pioneered a regional edition in a competitive newspaper hot zone, starting with a folding card table and a couple of chairs at the corner of a busy intersection north of Tampa. And then, after making video games for a few years, I covered K-12 and higher education for The Herald-Sun in Durham.
3 Steps for Cleaning, Disinfecting Interior School Bus Surfaces
One of my favorite projects at The Herald-Sun, “Learning Life,” was a series about four different styles of K-12 education in the Research Triangle: public schools, private schools, charter schools, and home schools. I followed one family from each aspect throughout the year to give readers a glimpse into how they functioned.
I’m father to an 8-year-old son, John Michael, and a 3-year-old daughter, Athena. My boy’s currently a car rider because his elementary school is just down the road. I fully expect he’ll ride a bus to middle school.
But what’s the transportation landscape going to look like when that happens? Is that bus going to run on electricity? Will it use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to talk to other nearby vehicles and prevent accidents? Is my child going to sweep an ID card over a scanner when they climb aboard or step off? Will the school district own the vehicle and pay the driver, or contract out to a service company?
5 Questions: Denille Girardat on Driver Shortage, Illegal Passing Concerns
It feels like I’m delving into the pupil transportation industry at a pivotal time, with route management challenges, environmental tides shifting between diesel and propane and electric, ever-present safety concerns sparking new innovations, and driver shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing opportunities with Amazon, DoorDash, and Uber.
That’s why I am glad Sadiah Thompson got to spend some time this month talking with Denille Girardat, president of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association, about the organization’s new driver-recruitment campaign.
I’m also pleased that Amanda Huggett took stock of what’s available in the realm of stop-arm cameras, which can help document – and, hopefully, deter – careless driver infractions.
And we’re privileged to get wisdom from Jim Gauthier, senior clinical advisor for Infection Prevention at Diversey, offering tips for keeping those interior school bus surfaces clean and free of COVID-19.
All that and more can be found in the September print issue. We’re also making regular updates to the digital news at schoolbusfleet.com.
Our SBF team will continue to join you in witnessing, making sense of, and adapting to the industrial evolution in pupil transportation. Consider my virtual door always open at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I hope to see many of you in person – pandemic allowing – at upcoming conferences.
Thanks for helping me along on this new adventure.
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