The 20th annual STN Expo’s general session on Sunday reminded attendees of resources readily available to them, and general problem-solving skills they can use to approach varied challenges within student transportation.
In moderating this session, Peggy Burns, a legal consultant and owner of the Education Compliance Group, began the conversation with defining the resources FERPA, IDEA and Title 9, and describing practical ways to those laws. She said the laws should not be viewed as the “enemy,” but as an ally –- to use these laws to educate the educators in the school district of the information transportation needs; to further student independence; and to be aware of harassment on buses.
The hour-plus session covered a lot of topics and offered suggestions that might seem obvious but still remain challenging for school districts. Topics ranged from how to begin productive conversations in general; training staff members with scenarios based on real-life or developed incidents; building in flexibility with fewer job descriptions with broader applicability; cultivating business alliances with other districts and local businesses; and educating the general public about student transportation.
Presenter Cheryl Wolf, special needs transportation specialist with more than 30 years in student transportation, gave advice from the special needs aspect. On the topic of starting productive conversations, she noted that it’s vital to build a bridge between transportation and the special education department.
“Once you have that cooperation and collaboration, it makes everyone’s life and job easier,” she said.
Other presenters were Launi Schmutz-Harden, transportation administrator for Washington County School District in St. George, Utah, and Mark Hinson, chief human resource officer for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Colorado. Both stressed that cooperation and collaboration is necessary for any positive results in transportation.
In areas beyond special education, Hinson, HR with Adams 12 Schools in Colorado, urged attendees to not wait to be “invited to the party” when it comes to meetings held with principals or superintendents.
“Then you become part of the ongoing agenda. Then you speaking the same language on any topic,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for proactive and preventive measures, and most importantly, working together for those early interventions to identify those students at risk for dropping out or other issues.”
Other important points the panel stressed was building a culture of shared responsibility within transportation; training drivers using real-life and developed scenarios; always being out ahead to tell a story to prevent negative press; and creating job descriptions to allow for more flexibility, among other points and nuances.