Special needs school bus contractor Dean Transportation won its latest Contractor of the Year Award at the National School Transportation Association Annual Meeting and Convention in Niagara Falls, New York.
School Transportation News joined NSTA as the sponsor of the inaugural company award this year. Kellie Dean, the company owner and president, was first named a winner of the previous individual NSTA Contractor of the Year Award in 1995. The company has won numerous awards over Dean’s tenure, including a 2010 gold-level Green School Bus Fleet Certification from NSTA for implementing a hybrid-electric school bus.
“This year, NSTA is pleased and proud to have partnered with STN on a new Contractor of the Year award,” said NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn. “On behalf of NSTA, we would like to express our gratitude to Kellie, Patrick, and Christopher Dean for their unwavering support of NSTA over the course of many years. Congratulations to Dean Transportation on a job well done, and best wishes for future success.”
Patrick Dean, who is also NSTA vice president for the 2022-2023 school year, joined the company in 2007 and has assumed day-to-day leadership. Christopher Dean joined full time in 2013 and is the director of innovation.
“We are humbled to receive this recognition as Contractor of the Year,” Kellie Dean told STN. “This recognition is a testament to our team’s hard work and commitment to innovative student transportation, focused on safety and service. I am proud to share this award with our Dean Transportation family and appreciate the industry recognition.”
Dean was instrumental in the formation of the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers National (TSD) Conference, produced by Roseann Schwaderer of the Edupro Group in 1992.
“Dean Transportation’s success and recognition is so well deserved. Kellie Dean is an amazing leader, is and was a pioneer in transporting students with disabilities and was instrumental in asking the tough questions so that wheelchair transport could be safer,” commented Alexandra Robinson, a TSD Conference Tenured Faculty member. “Kellie encouraged Roseann Schwaderer to push the envelope through her work starting the annual TSD conference. His guidance has helped me since the start of my career 30-plus years ago, and his knowledge continues to do so for many others around the country.”
STN acquired the conference from Schwaderer in 2014 and has since renamed it Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs. But her original mission of connecting student transporters with special education administrators and other support personnel and informing staff on the intricacies of special needs transportation has lived on. Fred Doelker, the director of training for Dean Transportation, often speaks at TSD Conference on safety topics. He also is a regular instructor for the eight-hour Child Safety Restraint Systems on School Buses National Training endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The company that eventually became Dean Transportation was originally founded in the early 1950s by Eric Christianson to serve students with polio who attended Lansing, Michigan schools. Lyle Stephens, a former motor carrier lieutenant with the Michigan State Police and a passenger safety expert who also helped lay the groundwork for the TSD Conference, took over in 1969 and renamed the company Special Transportation, Inc.
Stephens was named NSTA Contractor of the Year in 1987, a year after Kellie Dean joined Special Transportation. Previously, Dean was a special education teacher and administrator in transportation at Lansing School District for 14 years and was named Michigan’s Outstanding Special Education Teacher.
By 1991 with Kellie Dean taking ownership after Stephens retired, the company became known under its present-day name. Within three years, the company added the Dean Trailways charter service line. Now named Dean Charters and Tours, the line is one of the largest motorcoach providers in the state.
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In other NSTA news, STN also presented its inaugural Innovator Award to Alex Cook, chief engineer of First Student, for his work in leading electrification efforts for the largest school bus contractor in North America.
Meanwhile, Terry Thomas, who was NSTA president from 1999-2001, was inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame.
NSTA also announced the addition of new board members. Bob Hach, chairman of Sunrise Transportation that operates near Chicago and a former Contractor of the Year, is the new region three director. New at-large directors are Donnie Fowler, president and owner of Fowler Bus in Missouri and a former Contractor of the Year as well as NSTA past-president; Shane Johnson, the chief operation officer of Palmer Bus Service in Minnesota; Claire Miller, senior vice president of strategy, business development, marketing and communications for First Student; Corey Muirhead, executive vice president of Logan Bus in New York City; and Chloe Williams, vice president of B.R. Williams in New Jersey.