In June, Georgia’s Pat Schofill announced he was changing jobs and thus could no longer serve as president-elect of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. So, Mike Simmons, pupil transportation director for the state of Arkansas and former NASDPTS president (2011-2012), stepped in to fill the void.
“Many of you know Mike Simmons,” said Pat McManamon, current NASDPTS president, “but for those who don’t, Mike served as NASDPTS president 2011-2012 and the association is fortunate to be able to call upon him once again.”
Simmons was born in Illinois, but raised from an infant in Arkansas. He never rode the bus to or from school, but participation in sports regularly kept him on a bus. These days, he lives in Benton. He’s been married 40 years to his wife Susie, raising three children and now enjoying four grandchildren and a pair of labradoodles. In his spare time, Simmons likes to hunt, fish, go camping, and do “pretty much whatever little ones want to do,” he says.
In this interview with School Bus Fleet, Simmons discusses his history in the pupil transportation industry, his goals for NASDPTS, and advice for future transportation directors.
How did you end up pursuing a career in school transportation? Where did it start?
I started at the Arkansas Department of Education back in 1984. For many years I was in the Risk Management section and wrote insurance coverage on school buildings, contents, and vehicles. In 2000, Spence Holder announced his retirement and I followed him as state director. Spence was a long-time state director and former president of NASDPTS, so I had a lot to live up to when I came in. I was quickly embraced by the state directors in NASDPTS and felt comfortable from the beginning. I will always remember how welcome they all made me feel from the very first day I started.
What do you hope to accomplish as you take on the role of president-elect for NASDPTS?
There are many new state directors across the country, which is great, but we must ensure their involvement in NASDPTS too. One of my goals is to bring association service to the attention of these newer state directors – to encourage them to be leaders on committees or in areas of interest to them or to consider board service as positions become available.
What are the greatest challenges facing state directors of pupil transportation services?
There are so many challenges in today’s transportation industry, from environmental issues to driver shortages and just the overall demeanor of the students that we transport. Not to mention the soaring fuel prices and supply chain issues.
How has the student transportation industry changed since you last served as NASDPTS president?
The industry has changed dramatically since my term as president in 2011 and 2012 and is on the cusp of even greater change. The growth of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and ridesharing and the driver and parts shortages are just a few of the big issues facing the industry today and none of those were issues 10 years ago. Safety has and will always be our top priority, but we look at safety through an entirely different lens now than we did previously. This change is great for our industry, but it also requires those in this industry to be nimble and ready to adapt to the change.
What advice do you have for others considering a career in school transportation, particularly as a director at the state level?
My advice to new directors would be come in with a fresh and positive attitude and to get involved with your peers in all the associations that you can. These are your best resources for information. Always err on the side of safety. That is who we are as an industry! In addition, embrace change. If we aren’t changing, we are becoming obsolete!