HomePartner UpdatesSweet Home School Averts Perfect Storm with One Partner, Transfinder

Sweet Home School Averts Perfect Storm with One Partner, Transfinder

Scott Kennedy, the transportation supervisor at Sweet Home Central School District, located in Amherst, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, averted a potential perfect storm in the fall of 2023.

As the school year was fast approaching, Kennedy faced:

A driver shortage.

A change in bell times.

An influx of 200 new registrations a month before school started.

Changes in key personnel, including a new head driver, a new clerk/driver whom he recruited from a nearby district.

And on top of that, Kennedy was implementing new technology in his department – Routefinder PLUS and the parent app Stopfinder.

“I had color in my hair when I started this job 16 months ago,” Kennedy joked. “I earned every one of these gray hairs.”

Kennedy had been the district’s head driver for five years prior to taking the supervisor position. He had a total of 15 years as a driver, which helped prepare him for the role he has now.

Sweet Home Schools transports 4,256 students, including those attending area private schools. In a perfect world, he’d like to have 80 drivers. Today he has 57, not including those who regularly fill in, the mechanics, office personnel and himself.

He works with a contractor to fill the gaps so all his routes are covered but would like to one day keep everything in house.

As for changes to the tier system, the district added a tier, from one to two tiers, at the elementary school level, resulting in a move from three tiers to four tiers districtwide. Kennedy is convinced the added tier at the elementary school “saved us from disaster,” especially with the strain the last-minute influx of students put on transportation.

Kennedy, prior to working at Sweet Home Schools, was trained on other products. Making the jump to Transfinder’s Routefinder Pro and now Transfinder’s newest routing solution, the award-winning Routefinder PLUS, all he can say about the difference is “Wow!”

“I’m thrilled we went to it. To go to PLUS was just awesome. I’m very happy.”

When discussing Transfinder’s technology, he sums it up succinctly: “Everything is great.”

“It’s faster. It’s easier to make changes within the system. We can just go in and drag and drop. It’s great,” he said. “When we were first getting going, we did try the route optimization to see where we could fit runs together a little better and it worked very well.”

He also likes the Resource Scheduler, which he called a “huge help” to “see how things fit together when they are in the grid, what’s being used at one point in time, where there is overlap.”

The ability to open multiple map canvases and easily mirror morning and afternoon routes has also made his life easier.

Stopfinder has been a great complement to PLUS. This year he ended up sending the 4,000-plus postcards to parents with route information, as well as having that information readily available on Stopfinder. Next year, however, he is hoping to scrap the postcard approach.

Soon after launching the parent app, the district saw more than 50 percent of parents and guardians sign up and Kennedy is continuing to work at driving those numbers up. The parents who use it are engaging with it, he said.

“We have one or two messages a day with parents just letting us know their kids are not going to school,” he said. “We use it to send out push notifications that a bus is running late or had a problem. It’s very beneficial. I like it.”

He said he hopes parents will be interactive with his district via the Stopfinder app.

“We hope they bring their problems here so we can resolve them,” Kennedy said.

The app is also helpful in making sure the drivers are taking the routes that were carefully and deliberately created for them.

“In the past, we didn’t know if they were going a different route. They’d make up their own route depending on how they felt,” Kennedy said. “Now with GPS, parents can see when they go a different way and they like to let us know that. It’s keeping my drivers honest. The GPS aspect of it is awesome.”

There’s something else he thinks is awesome: Transfinder’s support.

“Awesome support,” he said. “We had people readily available whenever I needed help. The training was awesome, very knowledgeable.” That included onsite help.

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