-  Image: School Bus Fleet

Image: School Bus Fleet

The journey to and from school never stops evolving, and the future of carrying our most precious cargo increasingly is in the hands of younger innovators who bring fresh perspectives to their roles in the student transportation industry.

In our second annual installment of School Bus Fleet Trailblazers, we focus on dynamic professionals under the age of 40 who are helping to reshape the industry in 2024.

Whether it's selling state-of-the-art school buses, championing technological solutions to build efficiency in school transportation operations, or developing critical safety equipment, these trailblazers push the limits of what's achievable, fueled by a passion for their work and a dedication to making a real impact on the lives of students and families.

Stephen Barber  -

Stephen Barber

Stephen Barber, Klein Independent School District, 38

Role: Operations Supervisor

“This has been the most rewarding career choice of my life. I'm so glad that I found a career that I am not only passionate about, but that I love. Take that leap of faith. I never would of believed 10 years ago that school transportation would be the career that I would love.”

Read the full Q&A with Stephen Barber at this link.

Alec Borror  -

Alec Borror

Alec Borror, IC Bus, 39

Role: Sales Director – EV Bus

“Being immersed in BEV, it's been interesting to see and understand the diverse views around the transition to Electric school buses. It's important as we walk with customers through their electric journey we understand where they are coming from and meet them where they are today. There are many challenges and many tailwinds, so the different perspectives are very real and can be extremely different across school districts. Being willing to listen to customers before we offer a solution has been extremely helpful.”

Read the full Q&A with Alec Borror at this link.

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Noah Bower, Loyalsock Township School District, 31

 

Noah Bower  -

Noah Bower

Role: Transportation Supervisor

“The most critical part of transportation is networking, and having an open mind. There are many instances of having to multitask whether it be while dispatching during the routes, changing routes, talking drivers through detours due to construction, road closures, or accidents. Every day in transportation is different and you have to be on your toes and make quick decisions. Our district is very fortunate to have drivers who are willing to assist during those times. Our drivers go above and beyond daily to provide the safest transportation for our students. Relationships with drivers, students, administration, and our community members are key to having a successful transportation department.”

Christina Celeste-Russo, Orange Unified School District, 35

Christina Celeste-Russo  -

Christina Celeste-Russo

Role: Transportation Director

“I've learned every situation is different and it takes a team of talented individuals to overcome the hurdles you will face along the way. Team collaboration is essential to running a smooth operation, with safety as the number one priority. COVID-19 has been the most challenging situation we have been faced with and have needed to overcome in the school transportation industry. We dealt with staff shortages and social distancing, all while transporting the same number of students. This accomplishment would not have been possible if it weren't for the team's hard work and collaboration to do what it takes to ensure the job was done successfully for the students we transport.”

Michael Chisolm  -

Michael Chisolm

Michael Chisolm, Ellsworth Community School District, 32

Role: Grounds and Transportation Director

“Each day is going to be different. I learned that this job comes with ups and downs, but seeing the faces of kids who have a positive experience on the bus makes my day. I also learned how much of a TEAM it takes to run an operation like this.”

Matt Derry  -

Matt Derry

Matt Derry, Bennington Public Schools, 35

Role: Administrative Assistant for Operations and Transportation

“The next generation needs people that are willing to invest in them, even if it is in those brief moments before and after school. For a bus-riding student, the driver is the first and last person they interact with during their school day. They may have had a rough start to their day, and you have an opportunity to greet them with a smile, a hello, and if needed, a word of encouragement. The day may have been rough at school and you have another opportunity to have a positive influence and impact on their life.”

William Donavan  -

William Donavan

William Donavan, Durham School Services, 31

Role: General Manager

“The most critical thing that I have learned is that even though we spend a small percentage of time with our students during the school day, we play one of the most important roles in their education. We set the tone of their day, we provide them with their means to get their education, and we can positively affect their emotions on the way home if they had a rough day at school. We are the rolling billboards of our districts and our communities.”

Cliff Harrell  -

Cliff Harrell

Cliff Harrell, Beaverton School District, 38

Role: Transportation Maintenance Supervisor

“Something critical that I have learned is that having a robust preventative maintenance program helps to keep bus downtime to a minimum and ensures less costly repairs.”

Brandon Hayes, Township High School District 113, 37

 

Brandon Hayes  -

Brandon Hayes

Role: Chief Transportation Officer

“Be the person you needed someone to be to you when you were a child, a parent of a new student, a new driver, a seasoned driver, a leader, the list goes on. Empathy is a powerful tool. If I make empathy infectious, it will hopefully create an environment that will have a positive impact on everyone I am responsible for serving, including students, drivers, aides, mechanics, parents, faculty members, and administrators.”

Garrett Kendall  -

Garrett Kendall

Garrett Kendall, North Thurston Public Schools, 36

Role: Transportation Director

“Listen and learn. There is so much to this industry at every level, it takes an open mind and an appetite for learning to find success. At times it can feel overwhelming, but if you are willing to learn and understand to focus on controlling what you can control, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Additionally, find someone or a group of people that you can go to for advice and mentorship. There are so many people willing to share their experience and offer you encouragement in whatever role you are in. Lean in!”

Brett Kuchiak  -

Brett Kuchiak

Brett Kuchiak, First Light Safety Products, 32

Role: Specification and Compliance Executive

“Jump in with both feet and don't look back. Understand that very few people in our industry grew up thinking they would work in pupil transportation, and have similar stories in falling into the world of 'yellow bus'. The industry makes a daily impact on students, and is filled with passionate individuals who are eager to have you join pupil transportation.”

Matthew Mack  -

Matthew Mack

Matthew Mack, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, 32

Role: Dispatcher

“My high school bus driver Christine became a great support of myself. We would talk every day on the trip to and from school. Long story short, she was my therapist. She was always willing to hear whatever I needed to tell her. Once I was done with school I went to work for a special needs/behavioral school. I worked for them for five years, I loved my job, but it was very stressful and depressing at times. I have a huge heart for special needs children. I prefer to drive a special needs bus route as well. Working in the school with the children I adored, it was hard for me to see them struggle. I wanted more freedom to make a change in a child’s life, so I needed to find a job that paid well and gave me time to go to school. I knew it was time for a change, I called Christine, she told me to apply at RCS. I got the job immediately as a bus attendant. The best part was that I got to work with her. After a year I earned my CDL and became a driver. In June of 2022 I became a dispatcher and I love it, and I still work with Christine. Long story short my bus driver got me into this industry!”

Nathan Renz, Ballard Central School District, 38

 

 -  Image: School Bus Fleet

Image: School Bus Fleet

Role: Transportation Director

“My father-in-law was a transportation director for 25 years. He hired me as a sub driver. It was not something I saw myself liking or doing long term. I eventually became a full-time route driver and then the district mechanic after my father-in-law retired. The new director was an amazing leader and allowed me to learn from him. With his encouragement, I applied for a director position at my current district. It is the best move I have ever made in my professional career.”

Adam Richards  -

Adam Richards

Adam Richards, Carmel Unified School District, 33

Role: Mechanic

“Learn the value of prevention, preparation, and precaution. When there is an emergency, the time to prepare has passed. Knowing what to do in times of emergency doesn't just come to you out of nowhere. Knowing how to handle stressful, critical situations comes from practice, training, and education.”

Dr. Dontarrious Rowls  -

Dr. Dontarrious Rowls

Dr. Dontarrious Rowls, Alachua County Public Schools, 31

Role: Transportation Director

“This industry is in a constant state of flux, demanding a mindset and personality that can swiftly adapt. It operates at a lightning-fast pace and demands unwavering dedication. Dive in headfirst and be the catalyst for change that can revolutionize the way we deliver services to the leaders of tomorrow.”

Read the full Q&A with Dontarrious Rowls at this link.

Dennis Ryan  -

Dennis Ryan

Dennis Ryan, North Penn School District, 34

Role: Transportation Director

“Always be patient and understanding, no matter what the challenges may be. Ultimately, it's an extremely rewarding career, and gives you a sense of satisfaction that you are providing a very important service in transporting our students to get the education they deserve.”

Katelyn Saenz  -

Katelyn Saenz

Katelyn Saenz, San Antonio Independent School District, 33

Role: Operations Director

“Something critical that I have learned during my time in the transportation industry is flexibility. I have learned that a lot of departments limit their efficiency by running everything the same year after year. Be open to change, new ideas and be willing to take everything apart to start over. No one knows everything and you have to be open to criticism and the voices of your front-line workers who are actually doing the job. Listening to the ideas and getting input from your employees also helps with increasing morale.”

Chris Schadler  -

Chris Schadler

Chris Schadler, Walton-Verona Independent Schools, 35

Role: Transportation Director

“It is a fast-paced industry driven by safety and a desire to serve students in their educational lives. Every day can bring something new to the table - whether it's an achievement to celebrate or an obstacle needing resolved, regardless the wheels keep turning. One of the most critical parts of this industry from my standpoint is your employees - the dedicated individuals that operate school buses every day to transport students safely. In today's world it is more crucial than ever to support your employees. I tell them often that I will support them in their job until I can't because they are the ones that get up every morning and go out there to do my 'dream job'.”

Amanda Shirey  -

Amanda Shirey

Amanda Shirey, Centreville Public Schools, 38

Role: Transportation Director

“There are a few ‘musts’ in student transportation... 1. Have a sense of humor. 2. You have to genuinely love working with children from diverse backgrounds. 3. Understand that just because a student pushes against you or your rules, it does not mean that it is personal. 4. You don't have to love getting up early or going to bed late, the cold or the heat, but you have to love driving. 5. Be a flexible team player. Don't be the guy who hogs all of the hours or the guy who never offers to help. We're all on this bus together!”

Read the full Q&A with Amanda Shirey at this link.

Anuj Yadav  -  Photo: Thomas Built Buses

Anuj Yadav

Photo: Thomas Built Buses

Anuj Yadav, Thomas Built Buses, 32

Role: Senior Consultant/Project Lead Commercial Charging

“Embarking on a career in the electric school bus industry can be an inspiring venture marked by innovation and impactful change. This is the best time to join the industry as it will help you cultivate a passion for sustainability, which will be your driving force in transforming transportation for the next generation. You will recognize the profound environmental impact of your work, contributing to a greener and healthier future. Envision the broader impact of electric school buses on the future of transportation and education, keeping this vision at the forefront of your career. Your journey in this transformative field promises not only a rewarding career but also a meaningful contribution to a more sustainable and innovative future.”

About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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