Top 10 Most Popular STN Online Articles in 2018

Top 10 most visited

As we look back at what happened in 2018 and evaluate what online articles attracted the most visitors to STN’s website, school bus crashes were the most popular articles.

However, nine out of 10 of these most-viewed articles reported on death or injuries of school kids, teachers—and even one special education attorney that our staff knew.

The only good-news article among the 2018 Top 10, was the falling crude oil and diesel prices (“Diesel Prices Are Rising But Will Likely Fall After Christmas”) that was posted on Sept. 7. Oil and diesel prices look like they will continue to be depressed in 2019, especially since the falling prices arrived a month or so earlier than we predicted. That’s most definitely good news for school districts and school bus companies that are purchasing large quantities of diesel and gasoline.

The No. 1 most-read online article in 2018 was published on June 1, Police Confirm Special Ed Attorney Jacobs was Murdered.

While vehicle crashes, natural disasters, blood, and gore will always dominate the national media headlines—at least we can find some comfort in realizing that transporting school kids in school buses is still safer than any alternative they have to get to and from class.

And for that, we say thanks to the hard-working professionals in every part of our dedicated industry.

The following news articles are ranked in order of popularity, and indicate the author, date of publishing and reader’s views, according to Google Analytics reports.

TOP 10 MOST POPULAR ONLINE ARTICLES

  1. Police Confirm Special Ed Attorney Jacobs was Murdered
Melinda Jacobs
Linda Jacobs

David George    June 1         4,580

The body of special education attorney and frequent expert conference speaker Melinda Jacobs was found by local law enforcement officers on May 12, 2018, in an apparent murder-suicide in the Tennessee home she shared with her husband. Jacobs founded the Law Office of Melinda Jacobs, Plc., a boutique law firm that provided legal representation and consultation for public school agencies on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Jacobs spoke at the 2016 TSD Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, and at the National Association for Pupil Transportation Summit in Memphis in 2012.

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2. Fiery School Bus Crash in Texas Kills One Student

Mesquite ISD school bus.

Claudia Newton    Oct. 4        4,012

One middle school student from Mesquite Independent School District near Dallas died during an afternoon school bus roll over and subsequent fire. Four others were sent to the hospital. The bus, which was reportedly equipped with seat belts, was carrying about 40 students Terry Middle School, Mesquite ISD said. The district said the driver and three students were hospitalized, while 37 were transported to the middle school to be reunited with their parents.

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3. Woman Arrested in Death of 3 Indiana Students at Bus Stop

Photo: Indiana State Police
A school bus carrying 27 people to a high school basketball playoff game rolled over after being sideswiped by another motorist on Saturday, March 19, 2016.

David George      Oct. 30       3,458

Indiana State Police arrested a 24-year-old woman on felony charges in the deaths of three siblings who were hit as they crossed a two-lane road to reach their school bus. All three children were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, Alyssa Shepherd, was charged with three felony counts of reckless homicide, and one misdemeanor count of passing a school bus with the stop arm extended, causing injury. She pleaded not guilty. A fourth student who was also hit was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries but recovered. The incident was the first of several other high-profile school bus crossing deaths or injuries that same week.

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4. Students & Guns: What Can School Bus Drivers Do?

guns-school
Gun-related incidents at schools.

Ryan Gray         Feb. 14       3,322

A number of gun-related incidents on or around school buses prompted a question to one of the nation’s preeminent school security experts: What can and should school bus drivers do to deter such cases? No sooner had the article been published than news broke of the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. There are many ways that a student can conceal multiple weapons—from guns to knives to nunchucks—on themselves by using pockets, hoodies and even backpacks. The latter example occurred on a Florida school bus earlier this month. A similar incident occurred in October 2017 at another Florida school.

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5. Diesel Prices Are Rising But Will Likely Fall After Christmas

An aerial view of one of Chevron’s Permian operations in Texas.

David George    Sept. 7      2,684

If you can delay any large purchases until January, the odds are that you will likely catch a significant price drop after the busy (higher-priced) holiday season concludes. If you have to make a large fuel purchase before Christmas, make it as small as possible, in order to tide you over until January or later, when prices will be substantially lower, and you can buy big to save more money.

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6. School Bus Driver, Aide Calm Special Ed Students After Crash

Twitter/@gcschools
School bus aide Carletta Cyrus and driver Tammy Cummings are being heralded for their actions after a semi-truck lost control and hit their vehicle with four special needs students on board.

Claudia Newton  March 26  2,585

A South Carolina school bus driver and aide are being praised for taking charge and calming students after their special needs bus was hit by a semi-truck. Video released by Greenville County Schools shows the incident that occurred on March 20. A semi-truck skidded off the road into the grass, veered back onto the road and jack-knifed in front of the oncoming school bus. The trailer hit the right front side of the bus and toppled a utility pole, causing the live power line to fall on top of the bus. School bus driver Tammy Cummings later said that her training “immediately” kicked in. She maintained control of the bus after seeing the semi veer across her lane and slowed the bus to a stop.

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7. Preliminary Report Inconclusive on Iowa School Bus Fire

Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office
The right side of the school bus at its final resting point.

Ryan Gray    Jan. 26       2,181

The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators still did not know why a 74-year-old school bus driver and a 16-year-old student in Iowa were unable to evacuate the vehicle after a fire started in the engine compartment in December 2017. NTSB released its preliminary report on the Dec. 12 incident that occurred near Oakland, Iowa. Investigators determined that Donald Hicks, a veteran driver for Riverside Community School District, had just picked up that morning’s first passenger, Megan Klindt, at her home. Investigators said that Hendricks was backing out of the Klindt family driveway onto a gravel road when the rear-dual wheels of the 2004 IC Bus CE dropped into a three-foot ditch, then problems escalated from there.

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8. Nebraska Student Struck, Killed By His School Bus

Police discussed details at the scene of Monday’s fatal school bus accident that killed an eight-year-old boy.

Claudia Newton   April 11     1,994

An 8-year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska, was hit when he darted back out into the street in front of the school bus from where he had just exited. The tragic incident happened just before 5 p.m., when an Omaha Public Schools bus released 16 students at a stop near the home of Haji Mohamed. Surveillance video from a nearby residence showed that Mohamed started walking down the sidewalk with a group of other students before inexplicably running back into the street and in front of the bus.

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9. N.J. Mourns Student-Teacher School Bus Deaths

The scene on Highway 80 in New Jersey of a fatal crash involving a Paramus school bus that made an illegal U-turn and was struck by a dump truck.

David George    May 21        1,862

Paramus Public Schools in New Jersey issued a statement on a fatal crash in May that involved a school bus on a field trip and a dump truck. News reports stated that the school bus made a sudden illegal u-turn across several lanes of traffic after the driver apparently realized that he had missed the intended exit, multiple sources claimed. “A dump truck traveling in the same direction slammed into the bus as it suddenly appeared in front of him, the sources said, citing DOT footage that a court later ordered to be released. It shows the bus enter the highway via an on ramp and then veer across all lanes and in front of the dump truck.

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10. Jury Finds Chattanooga School Bus Driver Guilty of Homicide

johnthony walker
Johnthony Walker

Ryan Gray        March 1       1,836

A jury found Johnthony Walker guilty of six counts of criminally negligent homicide, which are less serious charges than vehicular homicide stemming from the fatal Nov. 21, 2016 school bus crash near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The jury opted to convict Walker of the lesser charges rather than the vehicular homicide counts that were originally sought by the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.

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TOP 10 MOST POPULAR PRINTED MAGAZINE ARTICLES

  1. Tipping the Pay Scale

David George    Oct. 2018       4,127

A significant reason for the chronic school bus driver shortage affecting the industry nationwide is the low average rate of pay, especially compared to other commercial driver jobs, shows our research. Also significant are the rising local costs of living and each state’s minimum wage. STN conducted an emailed national survey of its readers in August 2018. The lowest reported school bus driver pay rate was $8.26 per hour to start and a maximum of $8.50 per hour for experienced drivers.

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2. Rising Superstars

Claudia Newton     Oct. 2018      2,630

The school bus industry is full of under-recognized individuals who are the backbone of daily planning and operations at school districts and bus contracting companies across North America. Because of these dedicated, innovative individuals, millions of schoolchildren are transported to and from school safely. Yet, they often receive publicity only when something goes wrong. STN therefore wanted to recognize student transporters who do their jobs, do them well, inspire others, and serve as leaders in their field. We called for nominations of such individuals, and our readers did not disappoint.

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3. Districts Share Strategies for Attracting Drivers

Debbie Curtis      April 2018       2,348

The driver shortage seems here to stay. With Baby Boomers retiring, low unemployment rates, and stricter regulations required to obtain a commercial license, transportation departments are increasingly challenged to locate and hire qualified drivers. One answer might be to attract younger applicants. However, many employees under age 40 want to make an impact at work, with stable, full-time jobs that offer the flexibility of a freelancer’s schedule, but are not always available.

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4. High Achiever

Claudia Newton    Nov. 2018       2,203

Nicole Portee runs a stellar school bus operation for Denver Public Schools. She has had her fair share of challenges and monumental tasks to overcome, but she has consistently risen to impressive heights, which is why she was named this year’s STN News Leadership Award winner. DPS has a substantial transportation operation, with 399 school buses servicing 175 out of the 200 district schools. Portee also leads the Success Express, which is run in support of school choice and operates similarly to a shuttle service.

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5. High Anxiety

Art Gissendaner    June 2018      2,176

While in the throes of a nationwide bus driver shortage, many school districts anxiously await more direction on how to implement new federal entry-level training requirements. The clock is ticking, as school districts nationwide brace for an intimidating set of FMCSA regulations that will set new training standards for school bus driver applicants. The regulations will also establish new reporting requirements for transportation directors, and go into effect on Feb. 7, 2020.

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6. Dallas Lawsuit Seeks to Recover $125 Million

Amanda Pampuro   Oct. 2018    2,116

The dissolution of the Dallas County School District has been described as the biggest shutdown of a government agency in modern Texas history. And it all started with a plan to equip school buses with stop-arm cameras that were aimed at ticketing motorists who illegally pass while students are loading and unloading. DCSD Superintendent Dr. Rick Sorrells dumped millions of dollars into the bus-arm program over the next six years. While Sorrells drove the district into a position of unmanageable debt, he also admitted to receiving $3 million in bribes, campaign contributions and kickbacks.

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7. Garage Stars + Meeting a Texas-Sized Challenge

David George    Aug. 2018       2,005 

Joel Mooneyham cuts a handsome figure with his broad-brimmed Stetson, Texas-tall frame, nicely-tailored black jacket and friendly demeanor. It is easy to see what earned him the admiration, affection and respect of his professional colleagues. But talking shop with him truly unveils his expertise, the reason he was selected to head this year’s list of Garage Stars. As assistant director of fleet services for Cypress Fairbanks ISD Transportation near Houston, Mooneyham has bridged the common generational and technological divide, while helping to run a top professional organization.

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8. Teamwork Keeps Parent Apps Accurate

Debbie Curtis    Oct. 2018          1,875

Decades ago, it was normal for children to walk to the bus stop, or walk and bicycle to school without parents worrying. However, since May 25, 1979, parents have questioned the wisdom of letting their child perform this simple act of independence. That was the day that 6-year-old Etan Patz was finally allowed to walk the two blocks to his school bus stop alone. But Etan never made it to school. And because the school never notified the boy’s parents of his absence, a search didn’t begin until that afternoon. Etan became the first child to have his photo on a milk carton, and his fate remains a mystery.

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9. Not as Simple as It Looks

Eric Woolson    April 2018          1,858

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting secondary schools after 8:30 a.m., but there’s much more to a time change than just picking up the kids a little later. If there’s one thing transportation directors who are involved in setting later bell times for middle- and high-school students know about the process, it’s that it doesn’t happen overnight.

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10. Driver Assist

Debbie Curtis    June 2018         1,834

Tablet’s dashboard technology is a hit for streamlining a host of school bus operations. In an era in which school buses are beginning to be equipped with Wi-Fi to help students be able to spend more time on their homework, technology that helps drivers conduct their jobs better and with less stress, is similarly becoming more popular. The latest computer tool that student transporters are increasingly turning to is tablets. These mobile terminal devices can solve the ever-present problems of students boarding the wrong bus, and drivers not keeping their route sheets current.

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