NAPT President Don Carnahan, on board for his second term after serving as the association's first president in the early 1990s, told STN last month that it is as important as ever for all three national associations to work together for the good of the industry to help school bus operators navigate rising costs and incorporate the technology for creating efficiencies.
While technology has changed the face of the industry, what has not changed since Carnahan's first stint as NAPT president from 1997 to 1999, besides the continued commitment to school bus safety, is the effect of inadequate funding mechanisms as well as rising fuel costs.
"That results (in) the school district needing to supplement the funding to make the system operate the way it's supposed to operate," he told STN in an interview last month prior to the NAPT Summit in Grand Rapids, Mich., where at the conclusion Carnahan succeeded Alexandra Robinson, the executive director of transportation at the New York City Department of Education.
"That's still going on today. People are still dealing with that issue, and I suppose that's going to be the way of life for pupil transportation forever," continued Carnahan, the vice president of business development for Zonar Systems after a career as state director of pupil transportation at Washington state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Technology is what has given school districts the ability to measure true and total costs in an effort to stretch dollars farther than ever before.
"Anything you can do to control costs and still run a quality operation, then it's critical," he added. I think it's getting close to the point where, if you're not using technology, you're probably not operating at a level of efficiency as you should."
Still, he recommended that school bus operators choose technology wisely.
Carnahan said school bus safety and security has also changed drastically, especially since the 9/11 attacks, forcing the industry to work with partners such as the Department of Homeland Security to thwart "people doing all kinds of crazy things that could involve a school bus."
Meanwhile, NAPT President-elect Keith Henry told STN he is looking forward to observing and learning from Carnahan. He said he spoke with Carnahan before deciding to run for office and found they are both "going the same direction" with regard to their goals for NAPT. Carnahan said the NAPT staff is integral in achieving these goals.
Henry, whose day job is that of director of transportation at Independence (Mo.) School District near Kansas City, added that he and Carnahan also want to reach out more to state association members to "develop broader and mutually beneficial programs and relationships" and to increase the current relationship with international organizations started in earnest by Robinson, and to create new ones.
"When I do take over as president in two years, I hope to continue the work Don and I will have started."
As previously reported, joining Carnahan and Henry on the NAPT Board is Steven Kalmes as director of Region 5. Kalmes is also an NAPT past president and retired as director of transportation for Anchorage School District several years ago. Dwight Gleaves of Hydrotex won election to the board as NAPT Affiliate Member director.
Peter Mannella, the executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, was re-elected to the board as director of Region 1.
Remaining on the board for at least one more year is Barry Sudduth, director of Region 2 and the director of transportation for Stafford County Schools in Fredericksburg, Va., as well as Steve Simmons, director of transportation for Columbus (Ohio) City Schools, for Region 3.
STN Managing Editor Sylvia Arroyo contributed to this report.