It has been six months since Derek Graham retired as transportation chief from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and the awards keep coming.
On June 29, Graham was inducted into the North Carolina Pupil Transportation Association (NCPTA) Hall of Fame at the annual NCPTA Transposium conference. In May, he was presented with the Bill Hall Lifetime Achievement Award at the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Conference.
“To be honored by your peers is a very humbling and encouraging experience,” said Graham in a Facebook post after the induction ceremony. “It has been a great ride made possible by safety partners at the state, local and national level over the past 33 years. It's an industry which I hope to remain a part of in the years to come.”
When Graham retired from his 22-year post as North Carolina’s state director earlier this year, he had no intention of hanging up his hat. In May, he also joined school bus routing, management and GPS provider Education Logistics Inc. (Edulog) as a school transportation consultant.
“I continue to bleed yellow and look for opportunities to serve in school transportation just like always. Every project — whether it be a discussion of seat belts, routing efficiency or a parent portal app — has a safety component and I will always look first through that lens,” he told STN.
The Hall of Fame induction represents the highest honor in school bus transportation that the NCPTA can bestow upon an individual, the association said.
However, Graham would prefer to share the recognition with the industry organizations of which he was proud to be a part. “It’s not really about my accomplishments. I have been so fortunate to work with great teams in the university system, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and NASDPTS, among others,” he stated.
Graham was integral to the creation of the American School Bus Council as well as its “Love the Bus” campaign. He served on the state specification committee, which implemented changes to include air conditioning, LED lighting and two rows of integrated child safety seats, all as standard equipment. He served as co-coordinator of the NASDPTS illegal passing survey that each year tracks errant motorists nationwide. And he oversaw the statewide implementation of the Transportation Information Management System (TIMS) computerized routing system, which utilizes Edulog software to develop and manage school transportation plans.
“But none of these were solo accomplishments,” Graham emphasized. “I treasure the opportunity that I have had to work with the people on these various teams to bring about change.”
In presenting his namesake Lifetime Achievement Award, Bill Hall of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center commended the former state director for implementing many “progressive” safety programs and policies. He noted that Graham also represented North Carolina well outside of the state by becoming involved in numerous industry associations, including sitting on the NASDPTS board for eight years and serving as president from 2006 to 2008.
“He has had an impact on child passenger safety almost every day in ways and numbers that few of us in this room will ever have in our lifetime,” Hall told CPS Conference attendees.
Hall noted that Graham’s concern for safety extends to areas outside the bus, as he managed two pilot projects examining the feasibility of lap/shoulder belts on school buses, promoted new technology to reduce illegal passing (i.e., stop-arm cameras) and increased requirements for students to have bus safety training twice a year.
“Each state director has his or own challenges and emphases. And amidst all of that ‘stuff,’ finding the time and resources to stay abreast of national trends and best practices is a challenge,” concluded Graham. “I found that by making involvement with NASDPTS and NAPT a priority, it helped me professionally and hopefully made an impact on pupil transportation safety across my state.”