25 Fascinating Industry Personalities

Posted on June 1, 2002

The school transportation industry is made of hundreds of thousands of dedicated individuals who perform a difficult and underappreciated task. This article was created to recognize 25 extraordinary people who work in this industry. All of the participants were chosen by the staff of SCHOOL BUS FLEET (for more on the selection process, see Editor's Note in this issue). Our thanks go to the 25 profilees, who were willing to share personal and professional information about themselves. We are lucky to have people like this as friends and colleagues.

Director, Division of School Traffic Safety
Indiana Department of Education

Pete Baxter poses at home with his four grandchildren,
Maggie (7), Katie (2), Luke (1 month) and Teddy (9).

Born: Seymour, Ind.
Years in industry: 22
Previous occupations: Social worker for the Department of Mental Health.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I really enjoy the collegiality. Our peers willingly share their knowledge, expertise and experiences. The people in our industry are sincere, genuine and motivated by what is best for students.

Current job duties?
In my division, we administer programs related to school bus driver training and certification. We also provide administrative and technical support for the State School Bus Committee (the entity responsible for school bus specifications), school emergency plans, motorcycle rider training and high school driver education training. What I enjoy most about my duties is teaching the classroom segment of the school bus driver pre-service training and annual in-service.

Career high points?
President of NASDPTS; Steering Committee and Interpretations Committee chairman at National Conference on School Transportation; president of NAPT; co-chairperson of National School Bus Safety Week; board of school trustees for Seymour Community Schools.

Outside interests?
I enjoy woodworking and being in the workshop. Among my favorite projects are oval shaker boxes. Bending and shaping a thin band of wood still fascinates me, even after having built hundreds of boxes.

Top personal achievement?
During the time I was a school board member, two of my children were in high school. At their graduation ceremonies I got to present them their diplomas.

Top professional achievement?
It's a combination of being president of the NASDPTS and receiving a particular thank-you note from a bus driver. What's special about this note isn't the accolades the 10-year veteran driver bestowed upon me about my presentation abilities at a safety meeting, but rather the message that she was finally getting it.

School Safety Consultant/Trainer
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Nancy Blackwelder enjoys jogging and
recently completed a 26.2-mile marathon.

Born: Ithaca, N.Y.
Years in industry: 11
Previous occupations: Coach, assistant principal, district level special-education employee, Edulog program coordinator and assistant transportation director.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Transporting children effectively requires knowledge of driving safety and student management, yet many districts focus primarily on driving skills. I teach thousands of drivers and assistants across the country, and the appreciation I experience from people who are hungry for tools to address this information gap is extremely rewarding.

Current job duties?
If drivers are weary of driving-skills workshops and want information about managing students, they can call me. I'll come to a district or contractor to provide tips and tricks that work for drivers and assistants in their specialized environment.

Career high points?
Associate master teacher for the Governor's School Safety Commission; Victim Advocate Award for service to victims of violent crime; Richard Allen Administrative Excellence Award for outstanding assistant principals; board of directors for the Pinellas County Administrator's Association; program chairwoman of the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation.

Outside interests?
I enjoy boating, racquetball, tennis, jogging, biking and guitar.

Top personal achievement?
Successfully raising three children, two of whom are disabled, has been a 25-year personal achievement that deserves note. Also, completing a 26.2-mile marathon was one item on my list of "before I die activities" that required considerable training and effort.

Top professional achievement?
I coordinated the implementation of Edulog software to provide computerized routing and boundary planning for 110,000 students in 140 schools with 535 bus routes that traveled 57,000 miles per day.

Former driver
Williamson County (Tenn.) Schools

After 55 years of driving a Tennessee school bus,
Franklin Bond spends his retirement working on his farm.

Born: Maury County, Tenn.
Years in industry: 55
Previous occupations: U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954; farmer.

How did you get started as a school bus driver?
During my senior year in high school, I was asked to drive a PTA bus on special trips. That experience provided me with encouragement to become a school bus driver. After graduating from high school in 1946, I accepted a job offer from the superintendent at Williamson County Schools and was assigned a route. I was paid $60 per month.

Keys to your success?
I got to know my passengers and treated them with respect and expected the same from them. I also tried to be fair and consistent when administering punishment for rules violations and avoided any favoritism.

What did you enjoy most about being in the industry?
What I enjoyed most about my job was working with children on a daily basis.

High points of your career?
Five years ago, Oak View Elementary School honored me for 50 years of service as a school bus driver. The recognition ceremony was held in the school gym and all the students, many parents and friends attended.

Outside interests?
I currently enjoy gardening, working with cattle and watching the news on TV. I keep busy with work on my farm.

Top personal achievement?
In 55 years I only missed two days of work. One to attend a funeral and one day I was sick. I always felt it was my duty to come to work. I didn't want anyone else driving my children, and I didn't want anyone else driving my bus.

Top professional achievement?
In my entire career as a school bus driver, I never had an accident where a child was injured or the bus was damaged.

Chief of Community and Interagency Services Branch
Maryland State Department of Education

Linda Bluth says that receiving the NAPT
Distinguished Service Award this year
has been the high point of her career.

Born: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Years in industry: 37
Previous occupations: Special-education teacher, university professor and school system administrator.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I enjoy the enthusiasm of individuals involved in school bus transportation. I find the industry one in which people may differ about what constitutes best practices. However, there is no question that those involved are committed to safe transportation.

Current job duties?
My responsibilities include financial oversight for students attending special-education non-public schools. I also serve as chairwoman of the State Interagency Rates Committee that establishes rates for children in residential and non-residential programs. During the legislative session I track new bills in special education and transportation and report on their potential impact. Much of my time is spent on Statewide Interagency Task Forces.

Career high points?
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Governor's Highway Safety Award, 1991; co-chair of the Pre-K Writing Committee, 12th National Conference on School Transportation; director-at-large, NAPT Board and chairwoman of the Special Needs Committee, 1996-99; first place Outstanding Special Transportation Association Policy Manual Award, 10th National Conference on Transporting Students with Disabilities.

Outside interests?
Traveling with family and friends and visiting national and state parks.

Top personal achievement?
An ongoing commitment to improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

Top professional achievement?
Receiving the NAPT Distinguished Service Award in 2002. This recognition by my peers was a special moment in my life.

Owner, Carolina Bus Sales Inc.
Chesnee, S.C.

Paul Cash, pictured here on his Indian motorcycle,
has made his business, Carolina Bus Sales, one of
the Southeast's largest suppliers of pre-owned
school buses.

Born: Chesnee, S.C.
Years in industry: 26
Previous occupations: Sales rep. for Pepsi Cola, construction worker.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
The school bus industry is changing daily. It is an enjoyable challenge to stay informed and anticipate the customers' various needs in pre-owned buses. The valued friendships I have made over the past 26 years with both customers and suppliers are very rewarding.

Current job duties?
I spend most of my time in the office on the phone dealing with my suppliers purchasing buses or on the lot dealing with customers. I would like to say that I do all of the important work but that wouldn't be true. My wife, Joyce, takes care of office decisions and personnel. My son, Charlie, helps in sales. I also make coffee and sweep the floors.

Career high points?
As a unique business, Carolina Bus Sales, along with Joyce and myself, has been featured in several newspaper articles. We are members of several organizations, including childcare associations and Christian school associations.

Outside interests?
Until recently, Joyce, my son Charlie and I could be found traveling with five others as a Southern gospel quartet. My hobbies would be riding my Indian motorcycle, driving my restored 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury or camping.

Top personal achievement?
On the TV show "Survivor" several months back, cast members were asked this same question. Almost all of them answered, "family." My top personal achievement is "my family."

Top professional achievement?
I have never been accused of being the smartest boy in the graduating class of 1964 at Chesnee High School, but the love for the school bus industry has enabled Carolina Bus Sales to become the Southeast's largest supplier of pre-owned buses.

President, Chappaqua (N.Y.) Transportation Inc.

In her spare time, Joan Corwin, president of
Chappaqua (N.Y.) Transportation, works as a
volunteer nurse.

Born: Brewster, N.Y.
Years in industry: 39
Previous occupations: School bus driver, transportation supervisor

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I love the satisfaction of educating the parents and the community, as well as the schools, about school bus safety. I enjoy drawing upon my experience and being a spokesperson for the industry on the state and national level. I also enjoy the sincerity, friendship and mutual concern of my fellow transportation professionals for the children we transport. Most of all, I love being in the driver's seat with a bunch of children behind me.

Current job duties?
CEO, public relations.

Career high points?
Affiliations with state and national pupil transportation organizations; serving on boards such as the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute and the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA); receiving the National School Transportation Association's Golden Merit Award, the Rotary Paul Harris Fellow Award and the Westchester County E. Mario Cribari Award for volunteer service.

Outside interests?
Gardening, grandchildren, volunteer nursing, writing and community service. I am a guardian of a "mentally challenged family." I also enjoy cooking. When the temperature falls below 10 degrees, I have a crock-pot of soup or chili going in the garage for the mechanics.

Top personal achievement?
Attending nursing school on my "lunch hours" and graduating in 1987 as a Registered Nurse. Also, having my five children all work in harmony in the business with me.

Top professional achievement?
Being president of the NYSBCA and serving as a New York state delegate to the National Conference on School Transportation. Being appointed by New York Gov. George Pataki to the State Bus Driver Training Council. Being instrumental in legislation banning cell phone use while driving. Being chosen as one of SBF's Great Fleets Across America.

Transportation Director
Clark County (Nev.) School District

A former truck and tour bus driver,
Despenza feels right at home in
the transportation business.

Born: New Orleans
Years in industry: 25
Previous occupations: Gasoline transport driver, tour bus driver, supervisor of driver training and safety, assistant director of transportation.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Experimenting with new technology and field testing manufacturers' new innovations/inventions.

Current job duties?
I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of 1,065 school buses and the maintenance of approximately 1,600 other support vehicles. Clark County encompasses 8,090 square miles. My buses travel in excess of 16 million miles annually. We have 4,493 runs, and we service 13,669 stops daily, transporting more than 102,000 pupils daily. We have four metropolitan Las Vegas facilities and several satellite operations in the outlying areas.

Career high points?
Receiving second bachelor's degree in transportation management. (The first was a bachelor's degree in economics.)

Outside interests?
Camping with family and traveling in my motor home.

Top personal achievement?
Serving as vice president for the Las Vegas Urban Chamber of Commerce; being on the board of directors for the Greater Las Vegas Inner City Games; and serving as CEO of Transportation Solutions Consulting.

Top professional achievement?
The implementation of Edulog transportation software in near record time with one of the nation's best transportation staffs and being director of a technologically advanced, extremely efficient pupil transportation department.

Industry Consultant and Vermont State Legislator

Endres, who has devoted 33 years of his life to the
safe transportation of children, serves in the
Vermont House of Representatives.

Born: Willston Park, N.Y.
Years in industry: 33
Previous occupations: School bus dirver, high school English teacher, asst. manager of Wykagyl Bus Service in New Rochelle, N.Y., owner of Mountain Transit in Milton, Vt.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I love driving buses. I love the freedom of the road, the always-improving equipment and the passengers — big and small. I enjoy working with my colleagues, who truly care about the safe transportation of children.

Current job duties?
Many people may not realize that being a consultant often means driving a bus during the busy times. I also meet regularly with Mountain Transit (which I founded in 1980 and sold to Atlantic Express in 1998) to discuss contracts, explain previous business decisions and help ensure the overall positive direction of the company. As a member of the Vermont House of Representatives, I monitor transportation issues both for the company and the industry.

Career high points?
I have been a member of the National School Transportation Association since 1980. This organization inspired me to become founder of the Vermont School Transportation Association and serve as its president from 1992-99. I am proud to have received SCHOOL BUS FLEET's Contractor of the Year award in 1998 and am honored to serve on the magazine's Editorial Advisory Board. Most importantly, I am proud of Mountain Transit, its employees and their professionalism.

Outside interests?
Serving as school board chairman and volunteering with community and municipal boards. I also love bicycle riding, reading, taking road trips and exploring new territory.

Top personal achievement?
Building Mountain Transit from a dream to a respected 120-bus operation.

Top professional achievement?
The 1998 award as SBF's Contractor of the Year and my election in 2000 to the Vermont House of Representatives.

Transportation Director
Beaverton (Ore.) School District

Dennis Essary, pictured in front of a correctional
facility where he volunteers, enjoys hitting the open
highway on his school bus yellow Harely Davidson.

Born: Kansas City, Mo.
Years in industry: 24
Previous occupations: Grocery store manager while going to college in Kansas City. Crew member on a Navy recon plane in Vietnam.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Without question, the people. They are the unsung heros in most school districts. No one outside of the transportation operation has a clue how hard transportation folks work. I also enjoy the industry associations. People in the industry are always willing to share and help each other. The goal is clear: determining the safest and best thing for the children we serve.

Current job duties?
Supervision of three bus locations; hiring and human resources issues for 274 employees; budget development and oversight; and supervision of a shop that maintains 251 buses and 160 other district vehicles.

Career high points?
Missouri Transportation Administrator of the Year, 1990; National Safety Council instructor; Oregon delegate for the 2000 National Standards Conference; NAPT Board of Directors; NAPT president 1995-96; NAPT Distinguished Service Award; certified instructor for the Transportation Safety Institute.

Outside interests?
I am a licensed mediator and volunteer mediation services one evening per week at a community-based mediation program. Also, I volunteer with a Christian mentor program at two correctional facilities for boys 14 to 21 years of age. I am currently working with 11 young men.

Top personal achievement?
Being given the opportunity to work with the young men in the correctional facilities. Helping them to see that God's love for them is unconditional and that he has a plan for everyone. Hopefully, helping them to make fewer mistakes than I did. One of my boys recently earned his high school diploma while being incarcerated. I am so proud of him!

Top professional achievement?
The NAPT Distinguished Service Award. My affiliation with NAPT has helped me be a better manager and a better person. NAPT is an important part of our industry.

President, Pupil Transportation Safety Institute

John Fairchild, who enjoys playing music, had
the opportunity to perform in the Seattle
Space Needle four years ago.

Born: El Paso, Texas
Years in industry: 33
Previous occupations: Agricultural contracting, musician, mechanic, bus driver, state pupil transportation director, local transportation director, transportation consultant.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Pupil transportation is an ever-changing industry that almost invariably maintains its focus: the safety of our children. Though the equipment, the vehicles and the people evolve, the face of our customer remains the expectant child who depends on our professionalism, creativity and diligence to access the educational opportunities of today.

Current job duties?
Providing consulting services to local school districts, contractors and Head Start operations; working with a team on Department of Transportation RFPs related to identifying barriers to coordinated transportation services; facilitating work groups for the state department of education in the development of pupil transportation related rules for drivers; chairing the annual state pupil transportation conference; participating as a PTSI board member.

Career high points?
The opportunity to spend this much time doing the kinds of things I really enjoy; working with and learning from all the very fine people in the pupil transportation industry and helping to make the ride to and from school safer; acting as writing committee co-chair for the Operation Section at the 1995 National Standards Conference; receiving Oregon's special education transportation award, the Buck Klemm Award.

Outside interests?
Family and music remain my primary interests outside of pupil transportation. Most memorable was playing music in the Seattle Space Needle on July 4, 1998.

Top professional achievement?
Having participated in some of the industry's most dramatic changes, from the development of equipment standards to innovative ways to transport students with special needs. No single event can match the exhilaration of working with local, state and national groups to make the ride better and safer for kids.

Owner/President, Trans-Consult

Peyton, Colo.

A world traveler, Fischer visited the Antarctic
earlier this year.

Born: Chicago
Years in industry: 50
Previous occupations: School bus driver/mechanic; transportation director; VP of safety, training and personnel for school bus contractor; Washington regional transportation coordinator.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I enjoy working with fellow pupil transportation professionals who are serious about making improvements in the industry. I particularly enjoy teaching opportunities with new drivers, driver trainers and supervisors and developing school bus training videos.

Current job duties?
Serve as a driver, driver trainer and mechanics workshop instructor; conduct transportation system analysis and reviews; present at conferences; research and compile a daily e-mail newsletter on pupil transportation; consult/testify in cases of school bus litigation.

Career high points?
Two-term president, charter member, California Association of School Transportation Officials; two-term chairman, National Safety Council (NSC) School Bus Exec. Committee; NSC Distinguished Service to Safety Award; letters of commendation for School Bus Safety Week from former President Nixon, vice presidents Agnew and Ford, Gov. Reagan and other political figures.

Outside interests?
Recreational worldwide travel, photography, collecting school buses.

Top personal achievement?
Raising two sons to be productive, successful, family-oriented men of integrity.

Top professional achievement?
Devoting my entire professional career to school bus safety, highlighted by initiating School Bus Safety Week in California in 1961, expanding it nationwide by a federal proclamation signed by President Nixon in 1969 and testifying before the U.S. Congressional Transportation Committee regarding Federal School Bus Standard 17.

Executive Director
National Assn. of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services

Charlie Gauthier, pictured here providing
an update of school transportation
regulatory issues, is most proud of the
lives his job has helped save.

Born: Washington, D.C.
Years in industry: 14
Previous occupations: Worked at NHTSA for 21 years and other federal agencies for seven years prior to NHTSA.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
The most enjoyable part of working in the pupil transportation industry is having the opportunity to travel to various states and speak to the people that make this industry work.

Current job duties?
I represent the pupil transportation industry at the federal level and act as a spokesman with the media.

Career high points?
While with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the high point of my career was knowing that people were alive today because of the work that I did in the areas of safety research, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and safety defect investigations.

Outside interests?
My outside interests are extremely varied and too numerous to list.

Top personal achievement?
My top personal achievements are my two adult sons.

Top professional achievement?
Given my preference for little or no notoriety, I think others are better capable of judging the professional accomplishments of people.

Director, Office of Safe and Orderly Schools
Mississippi Dept. of Education

Regina Ginn poses with her family: (from left)
husband Mark, twin 16-year-olds Marcus and
Marianna and son Matt (21).

Born: Jackson, Miss.
Years in industry: 12
Previous occupations: Physical director of the Southwest YMCA, driver education teacher, bus driver instructor for the Mississippi Dept. of Education.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I enjoy being in a position to make decisions regarding the safe operation of pupil transportation vehicles for the state of Mississippi.

Current job duties?
I am director of the Office of Safe and Orderly Schools. This position administers the statewide pupil transportation program, driver education program, public school building fund program and the school safety program.

Career high points?
I have been fortunate to serve on the Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Association Board of Directors for the past four years and I currently serve as vice president of the association. Also, I have served as the southern regional director for the NASDPTS. As a Delta State University alumnus, I have served on the Alumni Board of Directors and hosted the Jackson Alumni Chapter meetings.

Outside interests?
My interests include being a "Super Mom" for my children. I also enjoy gardening, making happy packages for special occasions and making memory books for my children to capture special events in their lives. I am learning to golf so that I can spend more time with my husband.

Top personal achievement?
Being the mother of three wonderful children and learning from them how great life really should be to all. I am happy to say that my children, Matt, Marcus and Marianna, have made me proud and I do believe that the hard work of raining my children is really paying off.

Top professional achievement?
The development and implementation of the first comprehensive school safety program in Mississippi and receiving the "Lookin' to the Future" award from the Southern Christian Society of Children and Youth.

Pupil Transportation Director
Florida Department of Education

Charlie Hood enjoys traveling,
entertaining and saltwater fishing.

Born: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Years in industry: 22
Previous occupations: Restaurant, grocery store, factory work; sod stomper; mosquito control specialist; auto and truck service technician; automotive vocational curriculum writer.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
People, variety and concrete goals. Number one on this list is the interesting, dedicated and fun people. Every colleague throughout Florida and elsewhere is unique, but dedicated to the same goal, finding better ways to keep kids safe. It's corny, but most days I still enjoy going to work.

Current job duties?
Administering Florida's school bus purchase and drug/alcohol testing services bids; developing state policy recommendations for driver requirements and bus specifications; occasionally monitoring school district compliance and answering phone calls from frustrated parents.

Career high points?
My highest points are the comments from our customers, who remind me almost daily about the "above and beyond" actions of our staff. I serve on the board of the FAPT and chair the National Conference on School Transportation. Early in the CDL program our office received a business group-generated award for saving taxpayers $1.5 million through our statewide third party CDL testing program.

Outside interests?
My wife Mary and I saltwater fish, cook, entertain, travel and do too much yard work. My special talents include stupid human tricks, like reciting the alphabet as a word and slapping the William Tell Overture on the sides of my mouth.

Top personal achievement?
A successful marriage with Mary Betz, who I have admired and loved since 1971 and been married to since 1986.

Top professional achievement?
I am most proud of our success in navigating the sometimes choppy waters of the 13th National Conference on School Transportation.

Transportation Director
Victoria (Texas) Independent School District

Carl Kirst is an organist, pianist and vocalist
at his family's church in Victoria, Texas.

Born: San Antonio
Years in industry: 24
Previous occupations: Piano/organ salesman, private piano instructor, school bus driver, school bus mechanic helper.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Providing a vital service to students' educational experiences, running a safe and efficient system on limited budgets and the cooperation and assistance among industry colleagues.

Current job duties?
Lead a team of assistant director, two driver supervisors, two office staff and 91 classified employees; oversee scheduling and routing; oversee maintenance and operations of 82 buses and other department vehicles; school bus discipline for entire district; plan, recommend and operate within department budget; safety training for staff and students.

Career high points?
Texas Association for Pupil Transportation (TAPT); NAPT; attend Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference by invitation of state director of transportation for four years; Central Texas Association for Pupil Transportation member, president 1989-90; TAPT Directors' Workshop Presenter and Mechanics' Workshop Chairman; principal organizer of the First Annual Region III School Bus Safety Roadeo.

Outside interests?
I am an organist, pianist and vocalist at Holy Family Catholic Church in Victoria, Texas. I did five music-oriented tours of Europe and one to the Holy Land. I'm a Dance Team Dad. I also enjoy traveling, woodworking and photography. For four years I have played tuba in a 14-piece "Oompah" band specializing in German and Czech polka and waltz music.

Top personal achievement?
Being husband to wife, Melinda, and dad to two daughters, Andrea and Stephanie. Locating a school within two blocks of the World Trade Center collapse and organizing a means of making a $2,000 contribution to aid them.

Top professional achievement?
Running a system that is ultimately safe at a cost well below the state average reported annually by the Texas Education Agency.

Executive Director
Connecticut School Transportation Association

Robin Leeds is a student of ballroom
dance and is considering entering
a competition.

Born: Athens, Ohio
Years in industry: 20
Previous occupations: Taught composition and literature at Ohio University; stay-at-home mom; local reporter for the Hartford Courant.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I enjoy working in an industry that has a profound and significant effect on children's lives. While our impact is, for the most part, not immediate or easily recognized, who knows how many children are alive and healthy because the people in this industry — from the policy makers to the aides — have done their jobs diligently and lovingly? I get a special kick out of influencing legislation and regulation.

Current job duties?
I represent school transportation in Connecticut as a lobbyist at the state capital. I develop and implement membership programs, handle public relations and take care of administrative functions such as budgets. I manage the state's certified instructor program.

Career high points?
Filming a segment for the CBS Morning News on school bus monitors, being named Contractor of the Year by SBF and Executive of the Year by the state Society of Association Executives, writing the first glossary for the industry and working on an expose of vans for CBS.

Outside interests?
I stay active by exercising, hiking and dancing. I'm a student of ballroom dance, but my participation in dance is eclectic and includes swing, country, Cajun and zydeco. I write, and am working on a poetry/prose book that grew out of my daughter's death. I also love horseback riding and I volunteer with Foodshare, public radio and Habitat for Humanity.

Top personal achievement?
I developed, secured funding for and instituted a gifted and talented program and a cultural arts program for my children's school.

Top professional achievement?
My appointment as chair of the state Commission on School Bus Safety. It was, and still is, remarkable for an industry representative to chair a state commission. Of the 43 recommendations we made in three years, 34 were enacted into law.

Administrator of Transportation Services
School District of Philadelphia

John Lombardi is a coach for his 13-year-old
daughter Monica's softball team.

Born: Philadelphia
Years in industry: 22
Previous occupations: Distribution manager, candy manufacturing company; transportation operations manager.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I enjoy being involved in the education process of our children and working with so many dedicated people. Their commitment is amazing, whether it is participating in a school project or volunteering in transporting special education students to a Special Olympics event.

Current job duties?
I am responsible for the operation of more than 1,250 vehicles that transport 34,000 students on a daily basis. I also oversee the maintenance operation for more than 600 school buses and 450 other vehicles. We operate an intra-system mail delivery service for more than 250 schools, providing daily pick up and delivery of packages and intra-system mail.

Career high points?
I received three commendations from the Philadelphia Board of Education for my various contributions. I was president-elect and president of the Pupil Transportation Association of Pennsylvania from 1996 to 2000.

Outside interests?
I am a coach on my daughter's softball team, which I enjoy very much. It provides me the opportunity to spend valuable time with her and interact with young people — our most precious natural resource.

Top personal achievement?
I have a wonderful wife and daughter, a great family and friends that I have known since grade school. I was recognized by the Sons of Italy for contributions to the schoolchildren of Philadelphia.

Top professional achievement?
When I was appointed director of transportation, bus routes were not being operated regularly and some students were not getting to school. I developed a plan to correct the problem and I was recognized for it in an official commendation ceremony by members of the Board of Education and my peers.

Executive Director/CEO
National Association for Pupil Transportation

Mike Martin was challenged
to a push-up contest by
Beetle Bailey during a family
trip to Universal Studios
in Florida last year.

Years in industry: 7
Professional history: Law degree, professional tennis player, college basketball player, competitve tri-athlete.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I am extremely proud of the fact that I work for an organization that represents a multi-billion dollar industry that cares passionately about the safety of the more than 24.5 million children — including my 8- and 11-year-old daughters — who ride a yellow bus every school day. I am grateful to NAPT and its members for sharing their energy with me, and I gratefully acknowledge their compassion and concern for children as inspiration.

Outside interests?
I am a former tennis professional, college basketball player and a competitive tri-athlete who is reluctantly but officially retired. Although I've played tennis with Arthur Ashe, embarrassed myself trying to impress Mike Krzyzewski and nearly crashed my bicycle at almost 60 mph, my favorite sports memory is shagging fly balls with Mickey Mantle in center field at Yankee Stadium when I was nine years old.

Favorite family memories?
On our last trip to Universal Studios in Florida, we were eating lunch at Dagwood's place when Sarge and Beetle Bailey spotted my cotton top amongst the crowd and challenged me to a push-up contest. As soon as I stood up, Beetle realized that he might be in a little over his head. After about 40 push-ups each, he whispered through his mask "Take it easy — there are a lot of little kids watching." At that point, there were about 200 people gathered around, so we had to keep going. Final score: Beetle — 52, Mike — 60 (I stopped so he wouldn't look too bad). When we finished, Sarge gave Beetle one of his vaunted tongue lashings and one little boy asked me for my autograph. My kids loved it.

Top personal achievement?
I consider myself blessed to have such a loving, supportive family and equally terrific friends in almost every state across the country.

Transportation Manager
Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.

Darnese Nicholson advocated successfully
for a ban on the use of 15-passenger vans
to transport school-age children at her

Born: Washington, D.C.
Years in industry: 28
Previous occupations: Various positions in contracts and procurement for Gallaudet University.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Making certain the students' daily rides are as safe and efficient as possible. There is no better feeling than having that last bus arrive at school in the morning and returning to the bus lot that evening, knowing that once again, our students had a safe ride.

Current job duties?
My job responsibilities are more varied than pupil transportation alone because I work at a university that includes an elementary school and high schools whose student populations are deaf and hard of hearing. Certainly, my greatest responsibility is managing the pupil transportation system, both school runs and school-related activities. I'm also responsible for a 15-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week campus shuttle service and intercollegiate transportation services.

Career high points?
Judge, National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo, 2000-2002; SBF's Great Fleets Across America, 2001; Infants, Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers Writing Committee, 13th National Conference on School Transportation, 2000.

Outside interests?
I enjoy traveling immensely. I love the Midwest and the Southwest and travel there as often as possible. I enjoy gardening and spending time with my husband, daughter and three dogs.

Top personal achievement?
Honestly. . . smoking cessation. Dec. 17, 2001. (Those who smoke or have smoked know how important an achievement this is.)

Top professional achievement?
I would say the "top achievement" was educating the administrative staff of the elementary and high schools of the dangers of transporting students in 15-passenger vans. Result: the university's five-year policy prohibiting the use of 15-passenger vans to transport school-age students on school-related activities.

Director of Transportation and Registration
Lawrence (N.Y.) Public Schools

Robert Pape loves the ocean and
often takes his lunches at the
beach during warm weather.

Born: Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y.
Years in industry: 25
Previous occupations: Assistant V.P. in the banking industry, owner/operator of a number of delis and butcher shops.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
Getting an opportunity to work with the people in this industry and becoming close friends with them has been the single greatest reward for me.

Current job duties?
I manage the transportation of 5,000-plus children to more than 140 schools each day. In addition to a number of various administrative duties I undertake each year, perhaps the most enjoyable is meeting the thousands of families who register their children for school in our offices.

Career high points?
My favorite role is that of mentor and friend to newer members entering our industry. Offices/honors: president NAPT 1999-2001; president NAPT Foundation 2001-present; president NYAPT, Nassau Chapter; NYAPT Board of Directors; NYAPT Art Shock Award.

Outside interests?
While I regularly enjoy a good game of golf and like to dabble with financial investing, my other true calling comes from the ocean. I'm an avid fisherman and love taking deep sea fishing trips off of Long Island throughout the year. Because my district includes a beachfront community, I often take my lunches at the beach during warmer weather.

Top personal achievement?
That one's easy — meeting and marrying the woman I love more than life itself — my wife Judy. We have two beautiful and successful daughters and a loving family together.

Top professional achievement?
Being chosen by my peers in the pupil transportation industry to lead NAPT as its president in 1999. I have been quite proud of our abilities to ensure the organization is fiscally strong and can continue to promote the efforts of transportation safety.

Pupil Transportation Administrator
Alaska Department of Education & Early Development

One of Joe Precourt's favorite pastimes is to relax with
his wife Corinne and 2-year-old granddaughter Kyla.

Born: About a mile from Wrigley Field in Chicago
Years in industry: 29
Previous occupations: Radio disc jockey, weekend volunteer at wolf sanctuary, flight school manager.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I love the fact that all my adult life, I've been able to work in a profession that is all about the safety and well-being of kids. In that sense, I've always been true to myself and what was always most important to me — children.

Current job duties?
I'm responsible for all functions of school transportation for the state of Alaska, including management of the driver instructor certification program and school bus inspection program, approval of all contracts for pupil transportation services, updating of bus standards and providing consultation for all districts.

Career high points?
A special award for years of exceptional service to the Colorado school transportation industry from the Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association; the Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education Award; the tremendous outpouring of support at NAPT in Denver a few years ago from so many friends in the industry when my wife Corinne was so sick.

Outside interests?
Playing with my granddaughter, flying, music, wilderness survival.

Top personal achievement?
I've raised two good boys into really good young men and now, Corinne and I are starting again — we're adopting a little girl from China. After children, I'd say being a pilot and musician and being able to work with wolves at a sanctuary near Olympia, Wash.

Top professional achievement?
My single top achievement has been to never have an accident, either as a driver or as a transportation director, wherein any child or other person was seriously injured. Other favorite achievements include development of intergovernmental cooperatives and writing successful grants for funding for new buses.

Transportation Director
San Diego Unified School District

Alex Robinson describes her 6-year-old daughter
Rebecca as her top personal achievement.

Born: New York
Years in industry: 15
Previous occupations: State Department of Education employee, special-education teacher, behavior therapist.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
I think it is who not what: the people. I can't think of any other industry that has the dedication we do. Being a part of the ongoing innovation and creativity is something I enjoy being a part of daily. Also, the job changes daily, which keeps it interesting. Being in the business of education and making a difference for children is right up there too.

Current job duties?
As director of the San Diego Unified Transportation Services Department, the second largest district in California, I oversee a transportation operation that transports more than 23,000 students daily about 13 million miles a year and maintains more than 1,000 vehicles through the fleet maintenance program.

Career high points?
I am currently serving as director of Region V for NAPT and thrilled that I get to have this opportunity. I am chair of the Special Needs Committee for both NAPT and the California Association for School Transportation Officials (CASTO). Two years ago, CASTO published "Access and Mobility" and I was able to be a part of its authoring — quite an experience. High points have also included receiving the Kinnedyne Special Needs Award, the SCHOOL BUS FLEET Administrator of the Year Award and speaking in Washington at the EPA.

Outside interests?
Part-time work with Jazzercise — specializing in "hip-hop" aerobics believe it or not! Love to travel — my parents live in France so that helps. Good wine, friends and anything to do with the beach or water.

Top personal achievement?
Rebecca — my 6 year old.

Top professional achievement?
Being selected for my current position as director of transportation.

Fleet Manager
Oceanside (Calif.) Unified School District

Dennis Smarsty relaxes on Lake Mojave with his wife,
Cathleen, and twin brother, Dean (at wheel).

Born: Moline, Ill.
Years in industry: 10
Previous occupations: Marine Corps Captain, roofing contractor and driver.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
When I was a small roofing contractor, I became a school bus driver to fill int he slow times of the roofing industry. I found driving a school bus very rewarding and satisfying, leading me to pursue the training aspect of the operation. However, what I enjoy the most is, when the day is done, feeling like I've contributed significantly to the safe transportation of our students.

Current job duties?
My current job duties are to maintain a fleet of 90 buses and 55 white vehicles, including assisting the director in the budgeting aspect of the operation.

Career high points?
Some of my career highlights are: Serving my country for 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, which included two tours in Vietnam and a Purple Heart; being chapter president for the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA) for two years; being nominated for the Regional Member of the Year by CSEA; being nominated as a Classified Member of the Year by Oceanside USD; serving as a consultant on the Fiscal and Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

Outside interests?
My interest outside of work is being with my wife of 32 years, Cathleen. I look forward to getting away in our motor home to a fresh water lake. The perfect trip would definitely include our six grandchildren.

Top personal achievement?
My top personal achievement would be my three wonderful, loving daughters who grew up in the face of all of life's challenges. I couldn't be more proud of them.

Top professional achievement?
My top professional achievement would be serving on the FCMAT. This has given me the opportunity to share my experience with similar operations. In this industry, we are all wokring toward the same goal.

Creator of South Carolina's Jacob's Law

Lisa Strebler's son Jacob was killed in a van crash,
inspiring her to advocate for the passage of a law
prohibiting the use of 15-passenger vans for
student transportation.

Born: New Jersey
Years in industry: 5
Current occupation: Faculty member, University of South Carolina's College of Nursing.

How did you become involved with the industry?
My work began in 1997 with the resolution of litigation stemming from the death of my beloved son, Jacob, who died on July 12, 1994, as a result of the injuries he received while being transported in a non-conforming van. The van was being used by a private school to transport schoolchildren, and had been sold to the school in violation of the federal statute that prhibits such sales. During litigation, I learned that Jacob would have survived the accident had he been riding in a real school bus that meets FMVSS. I knew that I must go forward to advocate for the end of the use of 15-passenger vans in school transportation.

Most rewarding about working with the industry?
Since beginning this work, I have had the opportunity to travel across the country and it has been wonderful to meet so many dedicated people working in this industry who are deeply committed to the safety of children. When I consider the tremendous responsibility they collectively have for the well-being of the nationÕs children each and every day, I find myself in awe of them.

Outside interests?
I enjoy reading, gardening, and antiquing. I continue to be active in advocating for the end of 15-passenger van use, working with other state legislative efforts, conducting interviews, maintaining our Website, ( and speaking with other interested parents, educators, administrators and members of the media. With the advent of federal legislation, HR 3296, there has been growing interest in ending 15-passenger van use outside the industry.

Top personal achievement?
It was most gratifying to see the passage of Jacob's Law here in South Carolina in 2000. It has brought me great comfort and a sense of achievement in honoring the life of my son and assuring an end to 15-passenger van use for pupil transportation. My goal now is to see the enactment of a federal law, so we can end the use of non-conforming vans nationwide.

Consultant for School Transportation
Iowa Department of Education

Terry Voy spends most of his summer weekends
at his lake house, fishing and boating.

Born: Waterloo, Iowa
Years in industry: 33
Previous occupations: School bus driver, driver education instructor, gas station attendant and roofer.

What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?
The people of this industry make it enjoyable to come to work every day. I can think of no other industry where there is a more unselfish willingness to help one another and to share ideas and information.

Current job duties?
My responsibilities include oversight of the entire school transportation program in Iowa. Each year, our unit is responsible for issuing approximately 9,000 school bus driver permits and developing in-service programs for drivers and instructors. In addition, we collect annual transportation data, process $8 million in reimbursement claims and help conduct the state's annual conference.

Career high points?
My election to the Presidency of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) in 1997-98 stands out. I also had the opportunity to testify before a congressional hearing as well as hearings of the NTSB. Receiving the NAPT/SCHOOL BUS FLEET Administrator of the Year award in 1994 and the NAPT/ Sure-Lock Special Needs Award in 2000 were also great.

Outside interests?
I enjoy woodworking and fix-it projects but spend most of my summer weekends at my small lake house, fishing and boating.

Top personal achievement?
From an early age my parents taught me an appreciation for the concept, "If you want it, you have to earn it," which is so true today in all aspects of life, from monetary wellbeing to interpersonal relationships. I would have to give my wife, Sherry, a lot of credit for putting up with me as well.

Top professional achievement?
My top professional achievement was when my state director colleagues felt confident enough in my ability to elect me NASDPTS president at a time when there were major changes taking place within the association.

Related Topics: Fascinating Personalities, NAPT, NASDPTS, NSTA

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