As the editorial and graphics staff finalized this month’s edition, which celebrates Teresa
Fleming of The School District of Philadelphia as Transportation Director of the Year, I
revisited the list of her predecessors. The award originated in 2006, at the time jointly presented by STN and NAPT, to recognize exemplary leadership in the industry. STN renamed the award to focus specifically on transportation directors in 2018 when Nicole Portee, then the executive director for Denver Public Schools, graced the cover. She has since moved on to serve as an assistant superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina.
Fleming is also a shooting star. Before the magazine staff selected her earlier this year, she had already been tapped as Philadelphia’s deputy chief operations officer. This after serving as executive director of transportation for barely a year. Kudos to the Philadelphia district administration for recognizing her leadership and expertise and elevating her to a position of even greater influence. It is only fitting that Fleming continues the long tradition of who’s who in the industry. In reviewing the list of 18 years’ worth of winners, I’m struck by how much each individual has not only contributed to the safe transportation of schoolchildren but also the magazine, conferences and me personally. If any of the following names are unfamiliar to you, I encourage you to do some reading. Each winner (historically featured on the November cover) dating back to 2009 is chronicled at stnonline.com/digital-editions.
To Denny Coughlin, the inaugural winner, you have provided me with invaluable mentorship and friendship. There are many STN EXPOs we literally could not have done without you, and I hope you make many, many more.
Peter Lawrence, a former magazine editorial advisor, your scholarly approach to student transportation has pushed me to increase my industry knowledge via research. One of many truly good people on this list. Kanoe Cockett, your aloha spirit has always been near and dear to my heart, your kindness translating into a lifelong love of students and advocacy for their safety. Brian Weisinger, you are the dean of school bus maintenance and specifications with unparalleled expertise.
One of these days I’ll successfully tease you out of “retirement.” Don Carnahan, I know you are looking down upon us, cigar in hand, imploring us to continue to make a positive difference by focusing on what is truly important. God doesn’t make them like you anymore.
Pete Meslin, another magazine TSD Conference advisor, we have shared so many great times over the decades. Thank you for your integrity, friendship and mentorship as together (alongside many others). Charley Kennington, the consummate teacher, you proved to me the absolute necessity of training student transporters on proper child securement in school buses. John Benish, my big brother, salmon-colored power pants and all, you make every industry conference the place to be because of your knowledge and sense of humor.
Kenny Mulder, always so giving of your time to make events like the roadeo at TSD Conference a success. Charmane White, one of these days we’ll get you to the conference. Just say the word. Shannon Evans, the consummate professional, thank you for always making the time (and for handpicking Jennifer Vobis as your successor). Rick Grisham, congratulations as your NAPT presidential term comes to completion. Thank you for always advocating for student transportation safety and STN’s place in reporting it.
Nicole Portee, we will see each other in March 2025 if not sooner as STN EXPO East comes to Charlotte. Greg Jackson, my valued friend, I’m excited for you and the new chapter in your career. Todd Watkins, your positivity and faith in the face of adversity is truly inspiring. Your story will be told! Kayne Smith, what fun I have each time we get together, the laughs supplemented by what I learn from you. Jennifer Vobis, our second winner from Las Vegas, the past two years have been far from easy for you personally but in the long run they will make you even stronger than you already are. And finally, Teresa, you are as regal and gracious as you are gifted. Your perspectives are welcomed and much needed in magazine and conference discourse.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the November 2023 issue of School Transportation News.
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