As Brad Aemisegger listened to the speaker describe this year's winner of the William Rice Award at the 54th Annual Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation Annual Conference last week, he thought to himself that it sounded a lot like him. He was correct.
Aemisegger, a 29-year industry veteran who is director of transportation at Toledo City Schools, won the association's highest honor as the state's transportation administrator of the year for his work in helping steer the district through budget cuts the past four years.
He told STN the budget constraints forced the district to adopt state minimum standards for school busing that resulted in the elimination of 43 bus routes to the current 100. All high school routes were eliminated, and a two-mile walk to school was implemented for all kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
"As a school transportation person knowing the safest way for students to get to and from school is the school bus, that was a difficult decision," he said.
Now, Toledo predominantly transports special needs students.
The William Rice Award is a testament to Aemisegger's resilience and management skills during these challenges. The award, given in memory of former OAPT President William Rice, recognizes administrators who exhibit outstanding leadership and professional conduct in the school transportation field, both in the districts they represent and in the state, and also "to administrators who have contributed to the advancement of school transportation as a profession," according to the state association.
"The William Rice award is something you would never dream you would win," said Aemisegger, who is OAPT's president-elect. "This award would not have been possible if not for my staff. Our entire department is student focused, and we are constantly challenged to meet our district's transportation needs."
There were more surprises in store for Aemisegger, three to be exact.
"As the speaker went on, I realized it was me and I thought to myself it would have been pretty special if my family had been here," he said. "As that thought came to me, my wife, oldest son and oldest grandson walked into the banquet. It was a pretty special moment."
Aemisegger started at Toledo in 1985 as a substitute school bus driver while attending college, where he was working toward a business management and accounting degree. By 1992, he became the district's morning dispatcher and was named director in 2007.