This week has been a busy one in the student transportation industry. First off, it was School Bus Safety Week, an important event to remind the industry as well as parents and the public about how safe school bus transportation is compared to all other modes of transportation. Secondly, there were the two major events: the annual NASDPTS and NAPT conferences, in which both top state school bus officials, transportation directors and other transportation personnel talked shop, exchanged ideas, networked and learned about issues or initiatives coming down the pike.
While the STN staff will continue to report on specific topics discussed at both shows on our website, here’s a quick breakdown of a few pressing topics discussed at the NAPT Summit:
Key Performance Indicators — If there was a theme at this year’s show, it was performance-based management, which is the general framework for measuring performance by analyzing certain data to improve student transportation operations overall. KPIs is a part of performance-based management, and the industry is paving a path toward creating national metric standards and definitions that school districts large and small can use to accurately determine their costs and efficiencies.
There is still a ways to go for the NAPT KPI Project Team, which is working on establishing these industry-wide standards and definitions, and reported on its progress at the show. Then there was a workshop on KPIs for small school districts, those with 5,000 or less student enrollment, as well as a workshop on practical application and successful use of KPIs.
Newly created NAPT Fleet Services Advisory Panel — This purpose of this new panel, which held two presentations at the Summit, is to assess and analyze issues and predict trends related to fleet services that will help with creating workshops at the NAPT Summit for fleet managers. Additionally, to create professional development for these managers through such events as NAPT’s America’s Best, expanding the opportunity for more states to get involved with this annual competition. The ultimate goal with all this is to help drive down overall transportation department costs, and surely through the use of KPIs.
One way to drive down costs is by specing school buses with only the essential features for which OEMs don’t have to pay a premium in order to keep their manufacturing costs low. That savings is passed on to the school district customer, helping them save money. That's why this panel also is looking at how districts and states are specing buses and if there can be a national standard set of specs that all districts can use in order to drive costs down.
Hot Topics in Special Education — How could climate control in school buses be important under this topic? Well, it is, as is bullying, students with allergies and even service animals. These and more topics were addressed at a workshop and during a keynote presentation. The workshop outlined cases involving students with special needs and the lack of communication between an IEP team and transportation, while the keynote presentation looked at cases of students with special needs in which federal law prevailed, or the outcome of a case was unexpected.
A good example was a case in which a school district denied a student to attend school with his service animal. The school district lost that argument, but then argued that there was another student in the class with an allergy who could not be near the service dog. The ruling? The court ordered the district to allow the student with the service animal to attend school and to move the student with the allergy into another classroom. The bottom line was that it was the civil right of the student to have a service animal with him at school.
Talking shop in Memphis can get one’s hands dirty — with barbecue sauce, that is. Personally, I’d like to know one NASDPTS or NAPT attendee who didn’t have barbecue ribs on or around Beale Street. If they didn’t, they missed out!
All joking aside, personally, I learned a lot from the NAPT Summit and met some great, dedicated people both during the conference portion and at the trade show. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with state directors who are at the forefront at the state and federal level. Here’s to another productive year.
And did I mention barbecue ribs?