Launi Schmutz-Harden, the transportation administrator at Washington County School District in St. George, Utah, was the recipient of the 2014 Peter Grandolfo Memorial Award of Excellence last Tuesday at the STN EXPO in Reno, Nevada.The eighth-annual award recognized Schmutz-Harden for her dedication to the safe transportation of all students nationwide but especially those with disabilities.
A former NAPT board member, Schmutz-Harden is also a member of the national board of advisors for the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers (TSD) National Conference and a regular presenter at state and national conferences, including the STN EXPO, TSD and NAPT Summit.
The award was sponsored by Q’Straint/SURE-Lok and presented by James “Bud” Fears and Linda Grandolfo, the widow of Peter Grandolfo, a past National Association for Pupil Transportation board member and the director of transportation for Chicago Public Schools.
In her opening remarks, Grandolfo spoke about her husband’s passion and commitment to the student transportation industry before telling attendees that he would be proud of them and their accomplishments.
“He would be amazed today by all the changes in the past eight years, especially the technology — he was really into that. He not only continued to learn but he always wanted to share it with other people,” she said. “Our Peter J. Grandolfo Memorial Award winner daily provides exemplary service to students and other professionals in transportation. Peter and our winner were not only professional colleagues but also close personal friends. I can remember their frequent conversations together working out transportation issues and brainstorming ideas to provide the very best and safest transportation services.”
Fears also referred to his longtime friendship with Schmutz-Harden before presenting the award. He said how much he appreciates the STN EXPO, noting that he has only missed two conferences since 1987.
“It’s been a wonderful ride. We appreciate being involved with the EXPO, and it is a great pleasure to present this award,” he said.
Schmutz-Harden was overcome with emotion when she accepted the award because of her fond memories presenting at various EXPO sessions with Peter, whom she called a dear friend and mentor.
“I can relate to his passion of sharing and inspiration … and everything I learned is from mentors here at this STN Conference, so thank you for remembering me and having this conference and allowing us to share,” she remarked.
Schmutz-Harden’s career in student transportation spans more than two decades. Now she is a certified driver instructor for the Utah State Office of Education and oversees more than 150 employees in Washington County’s transportation department. The school district operates 80 school buses to transport approximately 14,000 students each day.
In addition to previously serving as NAPT director at large, she is the current chair of the Larson Award Committee and serves on the NAPT Special Needs Committee. Schmutz-Harden assisted in developing and implementing NAPT’s Leading Every Day, or LED, program. She is also active in the Utah Association for Pupil Transportation as the treasurer and a past president.
School Transportation News established this award after Grandolfo suddenly passed away in January 2006 so that his legacy as a “Renaissance Man” who was committed to improving student transportation safety would endure. Schmutz-Harden is the eighth recipient of the award.