|Written by Staff|
|Tuesday, 01 April 2008 00:00|
Annual Transporting Students With Disabilities and Preschoolers Conference and Exhibition highlights teamwork, communication
Little Rock, Ark., was already city of bridges. Six link the towns of North Little Rock and Little Rock. On the east side of the city, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center acts as sort of a seventh, unfinished bridge. Then there’s the city’s 1957 attempt at school integration with the famous “Little Rock 9.” But during a speech at the 17th Annual Transporting Students With Disabilities and Preschoolers Conference and Exhibition by Education Compliance Group’s Peggy Burns, the city’s status as a place for connections became even clearer.
“I believe that information and training may be the twin bridges for transportation to succeed,” Burns said.
For Roseann Schwaderer, event chair and Edupro Group president, the importance of communication, teamwork and cooperation in transporting students with special needs came through this year as nearly 500 pupil transporters from as far away as Guam came to learn.
“We see this in the fact, that many school systems send multiple individuals to the conference,” Schwaderer said. “We see it in attendees teaming up during the meeting, so they can share information from concurrent sessions; we see it in the advice given by speakers such as Peggy Burns, Pauline Gervais and other members of our tenured faculty.”
Communication Equals Safety
In an early morning session titled “Communication Equals Safety: Keys to Communication & Cooperation,” Faye Stevens, Pupil Transportation Safety Institute curriculum development specialist, stressed that those transportation directors need to reach out to Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams and share critical information with special needs drivers and aides.
“Different kids have different needs,” Stevens said. “IEP teams need to share the information with us because we need it to transport that child safely.”
According to presenter Jean Zimmerman, IEP teams need to share this information with pupil transporters in order to ensure safe evacuations in the event of a crash or fire on the bus. In her emergency evacuation workshop, Zimmerman, supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for Palm Beach County, Fla., explained why drivers need to know more about students so they can better expect the unexpected.
Jocelyn Taylor, autism specialist for the Utah State Office of Education, touched on a similar idea during her session “Severe Behaviors of Children With Autism: Interventions and Planning on the Bus.” Not only do transportation teams and IEP teams need to work together, both teams need to work with parents and teachers, Taylor said. If a child is having a tantrum on the bus, drivers need to reach out to their superiors, who in turn need to talk to parents and teachers about how to best address student behavior.
“There is no magic wand, so we do some planning ahead of time,” Taylor said.These same skills can be used to help prevent bullying, consultant Bill Hoosty said. In “Interventions for Diffusing Abusive Behavior and Bullying,” Hoosty examined what makes a bully, what makes a victim and how school bus drivers need to communicate with bullies, victims and their parents.
“You need to articulate to parents what the expectations on the bus are,” Hoosty said.According to Hoosty, techniques that schools have used in the past, including holding mass assemblies on bullying, don’t work. Because kids often trust school bus drivers more than any other school employees, drivers should be the first to prevent and document bullying incidents. As lawsuits become more prevalent, communicating with parents, senior transportation staff and administrators becomes all the more important.
“We’ve heard ‘when I was a kid…’ a lot this weekend,” Hoosty said, “[But] it’s not sticks and stones anymore. It is a federal case against sexual harassment.”
Proving safe transit also means having a working transportation department. According to Mark Hinson, this demands skill in communicating with subordinates. During “Building High-Performance Teams,” the assistant superintendent of human resources at Adams Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., showed the audience how to empower their employees to make good decisions.
If directors and supervisors do not, they may find their teams falling into behavior that may be less safe, he explained.
“If the work place slips away from you, so will your workers,” Hinson said.
Different Opinions, Mutual Respect
In some areas, Burns and Hood differed as when Hood told the packed ballroom that the school bus was a “soft target” and had been ignored by the Transportation Security Administration.
Burns disagreed, arguing that she worries more about children left at the wrong stop, fights on the bus and other daily problems afflicting the industry.
But both agreed that learning to respect other voices, including the voices of the drivers on the road everyday, was most important of all.
“We believe in you; the future of the school bus industry relies in your unswerving drive,” Burns said.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 14 January 2010 17:42|