In 2022, Mike Martin resigned from his longtime role as executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) to rehab a serious injury – a process that took 16 months and three surgeries.
Now, he’s making a professional comeback in a new role advising alternative transportation provider HopSkipDrive.
Martin previously managed communications and media strategies for lobbyists, working with several New York associations – including his favorite, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation. But he really just wants people to know a couple of things about him.
“First, and most importantly, I am very proud of my family and would rather talk about them than myself anytime,” Martin says. “I have been married for 37 years to a wonderful, amazing woman who is kind-hearted, even-tempered, and patient beyond belief, not to mention super-smart, funny, and beautiful. Convincing her to marry me was unquestionably my greatest success. We have two daughters, who are also wonderful, amazing, super-smart, funny, and beautiful human beings that obviously take after their mother more so than their father.”
The other thing?
“I am a lifelong athlete who is reluctantly but officially retired from the traditional team and individual sports I used to play in my 20s and 30s,” he says. “I am far from ‘retired,’ however. Though I may never actually run or jump normally again, I still really enjoy unique workouts and events that involve lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, rolling, swinging, and throwing heavy things; they consistently challenge my overall physical and mental fitness and put a huge smile on my face.”
In this interview with School Bus Fleet, Martin discusses what he brings to the table at HopSkipDrive and what he thinks school transportation directors should keep in mind in the months ahead.
1. What’s your new role at HopSkipDrive?
I am joining HopSkipDrive as a senior strategic advisor. In my role, I will serve as an ambassador of HopSkipDrive’s commitment to student safety.
2. What attracted you to working in the realm of alternative student transportation and specifically HopSkipDrive?
Since the start of the pandemic, the world has changed a lot, especially in the K-12 market space, and while everyone involved in student transportation shares the same goal - improving the effectiveness and efficiency of school transportation and ensuring all students are safe - I believe there’s a growing need for individualized transportation service that supplements the yellow bus infrastructure. School districts, and especially their directors of transportation, need options that fill the gaps in their traditional student transportation service and will enable them to make sure every child can get to school safely, not just those who utilize a yellow bus. HopSkipDrive is one of a handful of companies that are taking this new approach to student transportation.
3. How do you approach and prioritize strategic goals for HopSkipDrive? What metrics are expected to gauge success?
Over the course of my career, I have been responsible for virtually every aspect of business management and operations. I am convinced from my experience that managing people is the most critical aspect of leading almost any project. I believe it is vitally important to consistently remind one another what you are trying to do, remember and discuss why it is important, and then help create an environment in which your team members can make a little bit of progress against a lofty goal every day. That’s what happens at HopSkipDrive, without fail.
What makes HopSkipDrive even more unique is its complete and total commitment to technology as the vehicle for that progress.
HopSkipDrive monitors all rides in real time and offers unparalleled end-to-end visibility to parents and districts at each stage of the ride. This also allows for meaningful analysis after the ride, giving the team the ability to identify trends or behaviors and respond accordingly. HopSkipDrive is committed to transparency, which is why it releases an annual Safety Report that includes stats like the percentage of rides that occur without a safety incident (in 2021 it was 99.7%), or how HopSkipDrive CareDrivers compare to the average driver when it comes to safety.
One of our big goals at HopSkipDrive is to evolve the way that we - meaning the entire community of people involved in school transportation and committed to student success - discuss the safety and effectiveness of transportation options and how we use data as the universal language.
4. What’s your forecast for the evolution of school transportation in the next year?
More and more people in the industry are thinking about how to better leverage technology to improve safety and efficiency of our school transportation. I think over the next year, you’ll see more organizations working to collect data on the safety and efficiency of their school transportation systems and using that data to make informed decisions.
5. What should school transportation leaders be thinking about as this school year ends and a new one looms just months away?
School leaders need to be realistic about the challenges they face when it comes to transportation. In a post-pandemic world, so many of the issues that we’ve always dealt with are worse than ever. These are issues like chronic absenteeism due to transportation and a shortage of bus drivers. Now, more than ever, we need to be thinking creatively about how to solve our transportation challenges and not rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to transportation. I encourage school leaders to really customize their transportation plan to meet the unique needs of their school or district and that every resource is being fully utilized.