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Law Enforcement Meets School Bus Transportation at STN EXPO

RENO, Nev. — In talking with Joe Kenda yesterday, our Monday morning keynote regaled with stories not just from his 25 years on the police force in Colorado Springs, but his eight years as a special needs school bus driver.

As I mentioned during my opening remarks during the Sunday’s general session, some attendees might have initially wondered why we invited the star of Investigation Discovery’s hit series “Homicide Hunter” to Reno. Well, certainly, being the namesake of the popular television show, headed into its sixth season on Aug. 24, lends star appeal to the STN EXPO. But more so, Kenda speaks the school bus language, and, he reminded me, he probably would still by driving his school bus if it weren’t for the incessant requests from show producers.

Kenda kicks off Monday with his address that tells not only of his national record 92-percent success rate in closing murder cases, but how driving a school bus helped him turn his life around. Dealing with death and seedy characters day-in and day-out takes its toll. But transitioning to a job where, every day, students greeted him with smiles and laughter at him did wonders for his mental health.

He will discuss this and more during the general session keynote. Beforehand, STN will also announce the winner of the 10th Annual Peter J. Grandolfo Memorial Award, sponsored by Q’Straint and Sure-Lok.

Meanwhile, Sunday attendees heard the riveting (and, for some, controversial) “Makayla’s Story” from another law enforcement officer, Deputy Dan Sperry. His stepdaughter, Makayla Strahle, who was struck and killed five years ago by a driver who failed to yield to the stopped school bus and illegally passed the vehicle, hitting Strahle shortly after she exited. Sperry gave the industry plenty to reflect on in terms of school bus stop rules and the importance of the right kind of training for bus drivers and students, alike. Because, as he noted, the industry can never simply stop illegal passing. Even stop-arm video cameras won’t end the negilgence. But both can do more to safeguard against the violations

“If you fail to train, you train to fail,” he said.

He also discussed the importance of loading and unloading zone statistics, including how many motorists disobey school bus stop laws, as was the subject of NASDPTS recent data released just last week. 

Aside from Sperry’s presentation, which drew nearly 500 attendees to the Reno Ballroom, breakout sessions on distracted driving and incident management resulted in standing-room only audiences as the industry’s interest level on such safety and security topics continues to climb.


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