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What’s Going Well?

How many times are we asked the question, “How are you doing?” I surely don’t give an authentic response to a stranger simply out of courtesy. To someone I work with or to my family, however, do I share all my daily stresses or simply respond with “I’m fine?”

It’s small talk to a degree, but asking “How are you doing?” opens the possibility for the answerer to dwell on negative rather than positive life events. With the recent headlines of surging numbers of Omicron variant cases, staffing shortages, supply chain challenges, and inflation, it’s all too easy to answer daily greetings with the stress that is impacting our personal and professional lives.

At the opening 2021 TSD Conference keynote before Thanksgiving, speaker and behavioral specialist Patrick Mulick turned the question around and asked the audience, “What’s going well?” This method really stood out to me. I’ve personally redefined my daily vernacular and ask this question the people I interact with, instead of simply asking “How are you doing?”

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It shocks people when I ask it, but it is so simple to do. It forces others to think about the positive things in life. For me that is my family and work, which are going well. How about you. What’s going well?

I also hosted a panel discussion at STN EXPO Reno last month with Jennifer Vobis, executive director of transportation for Clark County School District in Nevada; Greg Jackson, executive director of transportation and fleet services at Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado; and Anthony Shields, assistant director of transportation for Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Texas. I asked these experts, “What’s going well?”

“COVID has had some blessings in disguise. It’s forced us to look at some of our inefficacies and become more efficient,” said Vobis, who represented the fifth-largest district in the U.S. that serves Las Vegas and the outlying area. “I took on this new position during the pandemic and the transition was seamless. Also, support for both staff and student riders was uninterrupted. For example, we conducted online training for 1,500 drivers during the pandemic shutdowns.”

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Vobis shared information about a new system that updates transportation offices and parents of students when a bus driver calls out sick. Drivers are provided with disinfecting supplies, PPE and training to keep the buses clean—a process she foresees continuing into the future. “This is our reality. Let’s use this information to move forward,” she said, cautioning against a futile desire to return to “pre-COVID” times.

Jackson, meanwhile, shared that the operational slowdown caused by COVID-19 freed up some funds to purchase new technology, including onboard bus cameras and tablets for contact tracing. “It’s always chaos with new technology,” he laughed. “So, we try to educate and do as much training as possible.” He relayed that his staff appreciates the additional technology, since now they do not have to do so many things manually.

Shields shared that one big benefit of the pandemic was time. This allowed the district to apply for numerous grants. Hays CISD acquired 10 new propane school buses plus funds to build out infrastructure. “We received a significant reimbursement for cleaning and sanitizing products that were previously purchased,” he said.

And the funding helped other areas.

“This school year we’ve implemented a new student tracking and RFID badge program for integrated use on the school bus, in the library, and cafeteria. Plus, a parent notification app to help provide more information to the community,” Shields added.

I feel proud of all the good things that the school transportation industry has accomplished during these challenging times. It has tested our resolve and we have responded. It’s important to look for the silver lining in every situation, no matter how challenging that may be.

As I reflect on 2021, our team and company has risen to the task of supporting our relentless vision of bringing valuable and meaningful information to the school transportation community. We are committed to helping you improve safety and efficiency within your operations with the ultimate goal of helping school children thrive.

I wish you a safe and prosperous 2022.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the January 2022 issue of School Transportation News.

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