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HomeSpecial Reports2022 Rising SuperStars Share Favorite Transportation Projects

2022 Rising SuperStars Share Favorite Transportation Projects

The 2022 Rising SuperStars, as selected by School Transportation News and featured in the October magazine issue, shared their favorite transportation-related projects they worked on throughout their careers. Read more about the Rising Stars.

Christopher Walls, director of transportation, Kansas City Public Schools in Missouri.

Christopher Walls
Director of Transportation,
Kansas City Public Schools in Missouri

“I have had a few since being in this industry. Earlier in my career, with focus on both safety and performance, I was awarded a national recognition from one of the largest bus contractors, their most improved location of the year award. That was a culmination of a team working hard to make necessary improvements and I am proud to have led such a great group toward that recognition.

“More recently, we completed an exercise in early September 2021, where we had to pair routes to what our available driver supply was. Rather than focusing on hiring more, we accepted the realistic approach that we needed to adjust our thinking. We reduced routes through collaborative effort using routers, managers, safety and some senior drivers, and we reduced 25 bus routes for the entire school year. This allowed us to function with a final route count that matched our driver supply, and we operated as effectively as possible as a result. The key was addressing this early, as we did this the week following Labor Day rather than waiting later in the school year.”

Dustin Ireland, transportation manager, Cyr Bus Lines in Maine.

Dustin Ireland
Transportation Manager,
Cyr Bus Lines in Maine

“For a little while we had a books on the bus program going, in coordination with the local library. We had a bus outfitted with seat covers that had pockets built into them, that we could put books in. Dubbed the book bus. kids would be able to pick out a book right at their seat, to read through or look at on the ride home. We had a rotation going, where each run would swap out and use this bus, so the kids could have their turn on the book bus. It was generally well received by the younger kids, the target audience you might say. However, it was a bit of a logistical issue, where it wasn’t always easy to have one bus that everyone was swapping out with.”

Ozzy Lopez, assistant transportation director, Pine Crest Preparatory School in Florida.

Ozzy Lopez
Assistant Transportation Director,
Pine Crest Preparatory School in Florida

“Setting up and coordinating procedural methods during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was something new for the busing industry. Our main goal in school busing is safety. However, COVID-19 added a brand-new spin on safety. It involved changing, condensing, or alternating routes, as well as figuring new seat spacing and time for sanitizing. Researching and learning how to protect our student passengers, and our drivers as well, came into focus in a whole new light. What has helped me most is knowing a lot of these students from when I started transporting them seven years ago.”

Kaisha McCulley, CDL trainer & permanent substitute driver, Exeter Township School District in Pennsylvania.

Kaisha McCulley
CDL Trainer & Permanent Substitute Driver,
Exeter Township School District in Pennsylvania

“I am a strong believer that the primary job function of a school bus driver is to transport students to and from school safely in a warm inviting environment. As we all know accidents, vehicle breakdowns, and medical emergencies occur. [Transportation director] Benjamin Bernhart and I have identified a shortfall in training from these situations. We both agree that training on this subject needs to be taught more frequently and that a standard written plan needs to be created that could be used in most circumstances. I have been tasked with creating this plan and implementing the plan through training. This has been a very rewarding project, as I know that safety is paramount. I will continue to evolve this safety plan and training as events occur.”


Related: ‘Rising Star’ Talks Trial and Error of Chicago School Bus Routing
Related: 2022 Rising SuperStars in School Transportation Announced
Related: Dallas ISD Transportation Employees Save Children from Flood Waters
Related: Indiana Association President Miles to Step Down Following CFO Promotion
Related: The Power of a Friendship in Pupil Transportation


Igor Petrovic, transportation and fleet director, Adams 12 Five Start Schools in Colorado.

Igor Petrovic
Transportation and Fleet Director,
Adams 12 Five Start Schools in Colorado

“During the 2018-2019 school year, the district engaged in the complexities of changing bell times to better align with sleep research. This was quite a difficult endeavor but quickly became my favorite as we had an immense cross-functional team trying to put this puzzle together. We ultimately succeeded in pushing the times forward while maintaining optimal busing for students and schedules for staff. This project showed how vital transportation is to the district’s overall success and was met with great appreciation for the team that keeps this department running.”

Kristi Harden, executive director of transportation, Cumberland County Schools in North Carolina.

Kristi Harden
Executive Director of Transportation,
Cumberland County Schools in North Carolina

“Rolling out [school bus tracking app] Here Comes the Bus. Pupil transportation is all about providing a service, and Here Comes the Bus helps to capture that work.”

 

Nick Voisard, senior director of electric vehicles for North America, National Express.

Nick Voisard
Senior Director of Electric Vehicles for North America, National Express

“The exciting thing about electric school buses is that there is so much to learn. The technology, while it may seem commonplace because of Tesla, Rivian, Ford and others, is still very new and changing. I truly enjoy speaking with our customers, understanding their interests/concerns, and solving their problems. That being said, I would say the current U.S. EPA Clean School Bus Program has been very exciting. I’ve enjoyed educating our customers on EV and the program as well as continuing my understanding of the challenges that lie ahead.”

 

Sho Kalache, region manager, Trinity Transportation/National Express.

Sho Kalache
Region Manager of Trinity Transportation,
Trinity Transportation/National Express

“My favorite student transportation project was my first big project in this industry. During the project, I looked for ways to make the recruitment and training process for hiring school bus drivers more efficient. Without compromising safety or quality of drivers, we needed to find ways to ensure applicants were moving through the process efficiently, so they didn’t lose interest.

“This was a very rewarding project because it directly impacted the driver staffing, a critical factor in our industry. Working on this project I had an opportunity to learn from people that are passionate about student transportation and wanted to look for ways to make things better. The most memorable part of the journey was going through the driver training process as a trainee and understanding the challenges the applicants face while learning to drive a large vehicle. The perspective of being in that seat and feeling the nervousness of a new driver helped me understand what we could and couldn’t change.”

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