Risk Management
  • Perimeter Fencing Keeps School Buses Secure By:

    School bus safety is about child safety. That’s why buses are highly visible with flashing lights, and why they’re equipped with stop-sign arms and cross-view mirrors. But when children aren’t on board,  what’s being done about school bus security? School buses are expensive and have valuable parts, making them targets for theft and vandalism. The top complaint we hear from districts is catalytic converter theft. Each incident means a bus is out of commission for days while new parts are ordered and installed, creating nightmares for student transportation and staff scheduling. Then there are the hidden costs like fence and glass repairs, increased insurance rates, and the wasted man-hours it takes to deal with the aftermath of a theft. Keeping buses secured is critical to keeping them safe, clean and in good operating condition. And that starts with securing the perimeter of the school bus lot—you can’t steal what you can’t get to. Stop crime before it happens with perimeter fencing. We offer powerful perimeter security solutions that are integrated across several layers of deterrence. For example, AMAROK’s flagship solution, The Electric Guard Dog™ fence, combines three powerful layers of defense in one: • PHYSICAL BARRIER, a 10-foot-tall electric fence with multilingual warning signs, installed just inches inside your existing chain-link perimeter. • SHOCKING DETERRENT, makes anyone who attempts a perimeter breach think twice with a memorable but safe jolt of electricity. • ALARM DETERRENT, any attempt to scale or touch the fence triggers a blaring alarm and ultra-bright LED lights.  As if that’s not enough to send criminals running, we also have multiple camera and monitoring solutions to keep your district fleets safe from harm. Users are provided access to an online portal where a bank of data can be used and analyzed by the district.  The best part about a perimeter security solution like this, other than the crime deterrence, is how worry-free and easy we’ve designed everything to be for our customers. Beginning with making the decision. With schools so often faced with trying to mitigate risk and exposure with very little budget, we are happy to compile a custom business case packet to determine your district’s ROI or threat level that you can present to your district or financier. We understand that transportation departments need to get buy-in from the district, so we want to give them enough ammunition to describe their level of threat. Once you’ve decided, AMAROK handles the fence installation, all on-going maintenance, and liability for the safety of our fence. All you do is arm and disarm the system—call us for the rest. It’s all part of AMAROK’s Security as a Service model, which allows districts to obtain a high level of security without the need for a large initial buy-in.  Don’t let your bus lot become a crime statistic. A perimeter security system is a great way to start securing your fleet.  You prioritize school bus safety, and we’ll prioritize school bus security. Liz Coffey is Director of Strategic Accounts at AMAROK Security. She engages daily with AMAROK’s top customers to identify solutions for their security challenges. Customer satisfaction is the highest priority for AMAROK, so she takes special care in developing strategies to maintain and build client relationships. She is relentless when it comes to protecting our customers’ property. Visit https://amarok.com/ for more information.

  • Q&A: Jonathan Bentley, Pupil Transportation Safety Institute By:

    For this in-depth Q&A, School BUSRide spoke with Jonathan Bentley, director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI), a leading provider of resources and training for school bus drivers in support of their goal of the safe, efficient transportation of children. To learn more about the PTSI and its programs, please visit https://ptsi.org/. Please introduce yourself and your history in pupil transportation. I have over 15 years of business management experience. My background in the transportation and education industry is small compared to the school transportation leaders that I work with. The board and development team at PTSI has more than 200 years of combined transportation and education experience. The Board of Directors are charting a new path for PTSI by bringing me on board. They wanted someone with the business acumen to lead PTSI in the face of current trends in transportation which show strong business oversight in the industry.  As a business leader, I lean on the transportation expertise that we already have on staff. Still with us, Kathy Furneaux, whom many are familiar with, has been a great mentor and serves as our Training and Consultation Manager, leading our development team. In addition to the support of my staff, I have our Board of Directors who are all specialists with knowledge and expertise in the industry. My knowledge and expertise in management, my ability to apply my skillset to the wide array of services provided by PTSI, combined with the knowledge of our industry leaders that we have on staff, is a great mix to lead PTSI. What are your roles and responsibilities at PTSI? First and foremost it is my role to hire the best experts in the transportation industry, give them the necessary tools they need to create excellent training materials to meet the needs of our industry. We have a multitude of New York State contracts, as well as contracts and agreements across the country. My primary role, assisted by the staff, is making sure that we cover all aspects of the pupil transportation industry, identifying business opportunities to serve the transportation industry and ensuring that, we offer curriculum, materials, and training opportunities that meet the DMV and State Education Department guidelines and regulations across the nation. It is my role to ensure that we stay in the forefront of the new trends in the industry, such as electrification of the fleets, and working with state government leaders regarding new laws and regulations where we have agreements. I am tracking it all from a 40,000-foot level to maintain PTSI as an industry leader.  Please describe the mission of PTSI. Our mission is to be the world provider of resources to organizations in support of the safe and efficient transportation of passengers and students for schools. Ensuring the safest possible transportation for students to and from school, as well as passengers, anyone riding a bus, a city bus, or the school bus. Providing training, information, and guidance to drivers, dispatchers, and everyone involved in that transportation field. What is involved in the institute’s myriad courses and training? Here in New York State, we have a set of regulations known as Article 19A, promulgated by the Department of Motor Vehicles. These regulations provide for a certification titled 19A Certified Examiner. PTSI has created and maintains courses for people to become certified and then refresher courses to maintain their certification every 3 years. We also offer a course related to the New York State Education Department certification to become a School Bus Driver Instructor (SBDI).  In addition, we have several contracts and agreements to provide training materials and programs across the country. We also offer federal driving courses, such as the FMCSA Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT Class B Theory. We offer that curriculum online and it is available in many states. How can NAPT members become more involved? Reach out to us, we are open to working with NAPT and their members. We have a link on our website. You can write in and ask questions right there. It comes through to our staff and then we follow up with an answer for curriculum, training, or service questions. We also do consultation work. Some schools have issues with a new direction, or they need better record keeping, more effective child safety, so we make sure they have access to that guidance and those services. We have a network of consultants focused on the common goal of safety for children riding buses to and from school. Just ask any question and we are there to help. What is PTSI doing to combat human trafficking? We partner with Buses on the Lookout (BOTL). We want to share information and guidance to keep schools aware that there are bad people out there unfortunately. The school bus drivers are a first point of contact with students before getting on or off the bus, so it offers a great opportunity for those drivers to see something and say something if they recognize an unsafe situation. It must be at the front of our minds. When they get behind that wheel, using heightened awareness of anything unusual to help protect children. PTSI is proud to be part of that initiative.  What advice can you offer NAPT as an organization to help your mission? You help us, we help you. We would love to know how we can better assist and serve NAPT members. What is it that PTSI can do to move and shape NAPT’s mission? How can we help them produce and meet their goals? We all have the common goal of keeping children safe across the country and better equipped school districts to provide future generations of children with the safest possible transportation. It is a huge goal that we are all passionate about. I have two daughters, and a son, and they ride the bus. I take it to heart. I may not have the transportation experience that some people have, but my heart is in it, and Read More >

Special Needs
  • Member Spotlight: Jennifer Durno, Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities By:

    For this month’s NAPT Member Spotlight, School BUSRide spoke with Jennifer Durno, director of transportation for the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities in Niles, Ohio. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your district. I am Jennifer Durno, this is my 19th year in pupil transportation. I am currently working for the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities. We are located on the Northeastern border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Our school, Fairhaven, provides educational services specifically designed for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Only about half of the County Boards in Ohio still operate school programs. We are proud that the Trumbull County Board of DD has one of the largest education programs in the state. We have about 250 to 300 students and we transport about 160 to 170 of those. We do transportation countywide through the 625 square miles of Trumbull County, Ohio. What is the most pressing challenge for your district’s transportation department? As with everyone, staffing. We transport all special needs students, so not only do we need a bus driver on every bus, but we also need to have an aid on every bus. Staffing both of those positions has been a struggle over the last few years, especially with the students that we transport and the accommodation that they require. Three quarters of our students have safety seating accommodations. We are required to fill all the accommodations by the IEP, so we are always looking for people that can fulfill that obligation. Coming from a county board of DD can be a different world than some of your regular local districts. Most of the time we are a smaller school, but travel more miles per route. We can have students on our buses for up to 90 minutes. We have students that have detailed medical plans that we coordinate with our nursing staff. It’s a big change for the driver who come to us from regular education school districts. I have worked for a district, I have worked for county boards and I think that sometimes we are a little bit forgotten. There are a lot of opportunities through the federal and state departments of education for funding that we as county boards do not qualify, so we really have to be creative working within, not only our organization, but our local communities to provide the best support we can for our students and staff. Just knowing that it is a bit of a different world and we are here and we are really proud of the work that we do and the safety of our students is utmost for us and we love doing what we do. How are you seeking to solve this challenge? Recently we have really focused on marketing our Organization and our department positions. That and really addressing some of the general concerns of new staff. It is expensive to become a school bus driver, especially if you are starting off with absolutely no credentials. It can be intimidating so we really wanted to address that aspect of the process. We have a wonderful leadership staff here with my Assistant Director and Training Coordinator, both being OBIs. They will sit and discuss the process, how it works starting at the interview level, explaining to applicants that they may come in as a bus aide initially, but we can discuss driving and see if it is something they would be interested in. We try to take away some of the fear of operating such a large vehicle and explain the process really well. We also offer to help them study for their permit test. We train them for the CDL and Ohio Pre-service Certificate, making sure they are comfortable and confident before they take their test. As an organization, we have addressed the cost issue by paying for the training and the pre-service classes that are offered through the state of Ohio. That has really helped. I think when you are just coming off the street to become a driver and you see how much training it takes, the cost can be daunting. We do not want anybody to come in and have those fears and nerves affect their success, so really walking them through the process has helped them be successful. As a seasoned professional, what advice can you offer other NAPT members? Never asking your staff to do something that you do not know how to do or will not do, and to be open to changing things that are not the best fit for department. That has been the success in our department here and throughout the different districts and organizations that I have been in. I am a school bus driver, I am certified to go out and drive the bus if we are shorthanded. Knowing firsthand what they encounter on the roads and being able to answer those questions from practical experience, is very important. This builds trust in your relationship with your staff. We cannot always do the same thing over and over. I always tell my staff the most dangerous phrase in the English language is, “We have always done it this way.” We do not live by that here. We constantly take feedback from the staff that are doing the job every day, and if there is a way to do it better, we make that change and implement it as soon as we can. Also, you need to have a great relationship with your schoolteachers and your special education directors, and/or leadership, so that they understand what you are going through. Have them come and sit with you, have them see what you go through every day and see why you are making the decisions that you are making for the safety of the student’s transportation. Building that trust and that relationship with the school is very important as well. We have a great one here with all our Fairhaven staff. What can the NAPT organization do to Read More >

  • Danville Community School Corporation Upgrades Technology, Transforms Maintenance Processes with Servicefinder Installation By:

    Located in a small rural area with a population of 2,700 students, Danville Community School Corporation in Danville, Indiana, is responsible for transporting well over half of the student body to and from campus every day. With 35 buses and 18 routes covering 86 square miles, the district’s transportation department needed reliable routing and management software that could keep up with their expanding fleet. When Robert Streeter arrived at Danville Community School Corporation as transportation director four months ago, the district was already in the process of transitioning to a new fleet management system.  “The district had purchased the Transfinder software about a year before I arrived,” Streeter said. “But the actual implementation had been on hold due to regular business interference. We have now brought on additional staff and are really able to focus on getting the system up and running for the coming fall semester.” Transfinder has developed routing, scheduling, and fleet maintenance solutions since 1988, and is built on industry-leading mapping and geographic information system (GIS) technology to deliver superior location intelligence and logistics management solutions. Transfinder’s Routefinder PLUS is a browser-based routing solution, with fast, safe, and smart route creation, allowing districts to control routes and maps to plot the safest trips with real-time information.  “The Transfinder system was entirely new to me,” Streeter said. “But the more I got into Transfinder, the more I liked it. It was going to be a lot of work to get it set up, it is for any district, but the support they offered was amazing. I have found nobody that has the service that  Transfinder has.”  From Paper to Digital Importantly for Danville Community School Corporation, the transportation department is also working to implement Servicefinder – the browser-based fleet maintenance and asset management system that works in conjunction with Routefinder PLUS. Transfinder said that Servicefinder not only tracks and manages vehicles, assets, and equipment, but it also helps districts adhere to preventive maintenance schedules, monitor asset and equipment lifecycles, and analyze maintenance reports for better decision-making.  “I am looking forward to integrating a browser-based maintenance program, because right now we are still using a paper system,” Streeter said. “It’s going to help a lot with work orders, maintenance, and recordkeeping in general. We’ve got a lot of integration work to do this summer, but I’m looking forward to it. We’re all tired of the paperwork.” Streeter said that, due to his own career background in maintenance, he quickly saw the value of Servicefinder’s recordkeeping capabilities. For example, he said, if OSHA ever needed to request records, then a literal paper trail would not suffice. The ability to instantly recall older maintenance records would be invaluable in such an event. System Support When Danville has questions about the system, Streeter said that Transfinder’s Community client portal provides instructional videos and webinars for his team, as well as a live-human chat function for more specific queries. If the live chat cannot provide the answer he needs, Streeter said the company is quick to provide time on the phone with a customer representative. “Their customer service is beyond any with which I’ve worked before,” he said. “They’re phenomenal. I use them a lot – maybe more than I should, but they’re very helpful.” Bringing the Technology Up to Speed Danville Community School Corporation boasts a stellar safety and maintenance record, as should be the case for a district of its size that is responsible for so many students. Rather than overhauling the district’s entire maintenance program, Streeter said the introduction of Servicefinder is more about ensuring that the district’s maintenance technology is keeping pace with its fantastic team of professionals. “It also is going to free up the mechanics,” he said. “When we can automate some processes, it will mean less time where our mechanics must sit down and write up paper reports. It will give them more time to do what they do best, which is maintaining our vehicles and keeping them running safely.” The district plans to have Routefinder PLUS and Servicefinder–as well as the Stopfinder, Viewfinder, and Wayfinder solutions—fully operational by August 2023.