|STN EXPO 2007: The Year of Technology|
RENO, Nev. — The 14th Annual School Transportation News Expo was one of the biggest yet. Over 650 attendees joined experts and industry leaders for 55 workshops during the five day conference from July 28-Aug 1. During the trade show, attendees walked the two halls and saw exhibits from 128 vendors. The following section highlights the conference portion of Expo. We conclude our coverage next month with in-depth coverage of the products from the trade show.
Pre-Con Special: Installing Child Safety SeatsA day before any other attendees arrived, 70 pre-conference registrants were certified as NHSTA Child Safety Seat technicians. Robert Brasky and Eugene Richardson, traffic officers of the Lake Zurich, Ill., and Steamwood, Ill., police departments, respectively, led the two day class. Like any good double act, the team kept the class entertained with a lively, informative presentation that focused on teaching the nuances of child safety restraint systems. Throughout, the instructors reminded attendees of their ethic and potential legal liability.
“You are directly responsible for the child,” Brasky said. “Supervisors, you are first in line to get sued. That’s what you’ve got to take into account with all this stuff,”
“Judge Peggy”On Sunday afternoon, the early bird attendees were entertained and educated during a presentation that was one part Judge Judy and one part Jerry Springer show, presided over by none other than “Judge” Peggy Burns, a well-known attorney specializing in pupil transportation legal issues and frequent speaker at the STN EXPO.
NAPT Region 5 Director Alexandra Robinson comically played the part of I.M. Wright, a mother bringing a suit against her school district because it was not accommodating her transportation requests for her autistic teenage son, Izzy, and six-year-old daughter, Neva.
“If you had a hair follicle disorder you’d understand,” announced Robinson after one of the “actors” made a joke about the wig she was wearing.
“She said ‘hi’ to me before the session and I didn’t even recognize her,” said Easy Way Safety Services VP of Sales Bob Rubin at the Everyday Wireless wine tasting party later in the evening. During the presentation, he played the part of the president of the board of education in the mock trial.
NAPT Director-At-Large Launi Schmutz, STN special needs columnist Linda Bluth, Colorado State Director Bruce Little and PTSI Executive Director Kathy Furneaux made up the rest of the courtroom cast. The 200 attendees also played a part in the theatrical session as the jury.
After hearing the problems of Ms. Wright, her love for the president of the board of education, and testimony from the transportation director (Schmutz), the director of special needs (Bluth), the bus attendant (Furneaux) and the state director of transportation (Little), the jury was asked if the district should give in to all of Ms. Wright’s transportation-related demands. In the end, the jury found in favor of the school district, which proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it had been more than accommodating and had followed all the applicable state and local mandates.
Although the session was full of laughs and gossip (there was some hinting that the school board president was, in fact, Neva’s biological father), the jury left with something to discuss at the conferences many social gatherings.
Maintenance: Retrofitting, Repowering and Running New FleetsFlying under the banner of “The Year in Technology,” the maintenance track focused on new regulations, new technology and what this means for school transportation technicians and their budgets.
Experts from International, Caterpillar and the Donaldson Company showed attendees their varied options for retrofitting pre-2007 buses, from diesel particulate filters and diesel oxidation catalysts to selective catalytic reduction devices and crank case filters. Each provides vastly different reduction in particulate matter and pollutants, and at vastly different costs.
Attendees were encouraged to find the right solutions for their district’s needs.
“As we know, no two districts have the same types of operations,” said Mark Vorhees, Caterpillar senior account manager, bus and specialty vehicle group.
During a session comparing the cost of running an aging fleet with the cost of buying new buses, representatives from Blue Bird, Thomas Built Bus Corp. and IC encouraged attendees to look at the life-cycle costs of not replacing their buses.
“You lose out on the benefits of not upgrading if you go back more than 10 years,” Greg Saele, marketing manger for IC’s engine group.
Company representatives were lukewarm to the suggestion of one attendee that replacing an engine might be a good solution for cash-strapped districts. Bob Pudlewski, Laidlaw’s former vice president of fleet operations and the moderator of the panel, encouraged all three to come up with data to help districts make decisions about buying buses.
“I think it’s incumbent on them to do a life-cycle analysis,” Pudlewski said later.Edwin P. Soriano, a mechanic from Tracy Unified School District in California, came to the show hoping to better understand new regulations and new technology.
“Now, we don’t make the decision,” Soriano said. “But we put that on the table when we have a meeting with the school district or director”
Security Plan EvaluationAfter her first session, “Show me the Money — Effective Grant Writing,” financial and management track speaker Sonayia Shepherd met one-on-one with Jim Cameron, transportation manager for Muskogee County Head Start in Mississippi, for a school bus security plan evaluation. Shepherd reviewed Cameron’s security and crisis plans and made suggestions for improvements that the once-retired transportation administrator was happy to bring home to his program.
“I was impressed with her review,” said Cameron. “She advised us that grant funding is out there for security improvements, whether it be cameras, GPS or security programs in your school. Our safety officer can take those improvements that she’s recommended and change our plan to accommodate them.”
Head Start TrackOne solution to help Head Start programs with their transportation funding issues was discussed in the “Is Bus Leasing a Solution for the Head Start Transportation Budget Crunch?” panel discussion on July 30. Marlan Rohlena, president of Western Bus Sales, and Anthony Petrolis, municipal and bus finance manager for DaimlerChrysler, explained options for leasing a bus.
“There is a zero track lease option where there is no balance due after the five-year lease is over,” said Petrolis.
Tax-exempt financing was covered Rohlena, who stressed that programs must “communicate with the IRS to figure out their eligibility status.”
Following the trade show on Tuesday, a number of Head Start attendees met for the “Head Start & School District Collaboration,” moderated by Robinson, who is also the transportation director for San Diego Unified School District. Head Start educators and administrators with experience ranging from one year to 26 years spoke about what works and what doesn’t work when approaching school districts. An e-mail list, which will be organized and moderated by STN, was started in hopes of leading to more collaboration between the programs in each state.
The e-mail community grew to almost 50 members during Wednesday morning’s “STN Head Start Forum.” The combined experience present made for an interesting and informative discussion for all in attendance.
“We all look forward to our continuing work together on behalf of Head Start children across the nation,” wrote Nancy Netherland of the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Technical Assistance Center Academy for Educational Development in an e-mail to STN.
|Last Updated on Monday, 11 January 2010 11:44|