The National Association for Pupil Transportation recently announced the results of its recently held elections for President-Elect, Region 4 Director, and Affiliate Director. Results were announced on the Trade Show floor at the Closing Business Meeting of the 46th Annual Conference in Columbus, OH, followed by an email announcement to all voting members.
In this issue, we spoke to the new members of leadership about their positions and what NAPT members can expect in 2024:
Keith Kaup, CDPT (TX) – President-Elect
Rosalyn Vann-Jackson, MBA, CDPT (OK) – Region 4 Director
Maritza Valentin – Affiliate Director
Please our readers a bit about your history and current role in the pupil transportation journey.
Keith Kaup: I’m in my 29th year in the pupil transportation industry, starting out as a substitute bus driver in college to now working at the director level. When I first began, it didn’t take me long to see the impact that bus drivers have on our students, their families, and our communities. I have been blessed to have served with some excellent leaders and mentors who showed me opportunities for growth within the field. Today, many of them are part of my extended family; throughout my career, I’ve held tight to the understanding that anything that I’ve accomplished is directly attributable to those leaders and mentors who poured into me in the past. They offered guidance and a foundational understanding not only of the industry, but about valuing people and investing in their growth. And for this reason, I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my time and resources to professional development and service to others in our profession.
I’ve served as a transportation director for the last 20 years in districts of various sizes and community makeups. Five years ago, I was given the opportunity to return to my hometown of Pearland, TX to work as the Director of Transportation, serving the same community in which I first rode a bus over 40 years ago.
Rosalyn Vann-Jackson: I started in pupil transportation nearly two decades ago. Prior to that, I worked in human resources; I love the work of people and being solution oriented, so I enjoyed my time spent in that field. About two decades ago, I began in pupil transportation as a supervisor of special needs before transitioning into an operational support manager. This role included the work of anything and everything related to pupil transportation – including the garage. I handled safety, training, customer service, routing, scheduling, parts, procurement, RFPs, RFQs, and budgeting. Needless to say, I was busy but I was on a path; the Director of
Transportation at that time informed me that I was the succession plan. I was set up to take over transportation for the second-largest urban school district in Oklahoma, a district with a total of 40,000 students.
At first, I was hesitant, but I saw that there were many opportunities to improve upon where we could provide services in a way that the department had not before. Plus, I had a heart for the people and the students. Pupil transportation is not normal, it is special – it is a true labor of love. I served in that role for a decade before joining the team at Broken Arrow Schools where I was promoted and now serving as the Chief Support Services Officer where I oversee 500 employees within transportation, child nutrition, before and aftercare, and we also have an employee childcare center.
Maritza Valentin: I have been in the field of pupil transportation for 30 years. This was not my first career choice but when I saw that this industry was about children’s safety, I immediately knew that I was on the right career path. During my time in the industry, I have worked in all areas of the field from the production line to product development and the overall business.
In addition, I am a corporate trainer where I’ve trained over 4,000 individuals ranging from technicians to directors. I spend many hours volunteering for many different organizations to enhance the learning experience so that all involved in transporting children understand the challenges and opportunities when it comes to safety.
What does it mean to you to serve the NAPT membership in a leadership role?
Kaup: I believe that it’s our duty and our privilege to serve, that no matter your role, there are opportunities to become involved.
As a volunteer leader, I’m honored to be in a position that will guide and direct the future of NAPT. I will work hard to ensure we stay focused on our mission of empowering and supporting professionals in our industry as we continue to provide support and access to education through safe and efficient transportation for our students. My previous experience within the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation (TAPT) has given me the foundation of what it means to perform at a high level for a volunteer organization. Volunteer leaders must focus on the health of the organization and stay committed to the members we’re elected to serve.
Vann-Jackson: Serving on the NAPT board in a leadership capacity is quite significant. Looking back on my career, it was my first experience at an NAPT conference that sparked my interest in future endeavors that led me to where I am now in my professional life.
I find myself to be an adaptive leader. I love mobilizing people to be able to handle tough challenges that emerge in our everyday work because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of challenges. It was the people of NAPT who poured into me in my early career; people like Alex Robinson, Launi Harden, Theresa Anderson, Peter Lawrence, and Mike Martin; therefore, I would like to do the same for those who are the future of our profession. NAPT is the catalyst for our industry and I am excited to take my seat at the table to be part of it.
Valentin: Being elected as the Business Affiliate Director means a lot to me. I have spent many years working alongside fellow pupil transportation business professionals, brainstorming on how we can improve and advance our industry. Like Rosalyn, I too have had role models that I have met at past NAPT conferences, who have made a difference in my career. Specifically, Dave McDonald who previously served as NAPT’s Business Affiliate Director. Dave has always been supportive, creative, and open to working together. Furthermore, I have had the privilege of making connections with Linda Bluth, Kathy Furneaux, Sue Shutrump, Peggy Burns, Peter Mannella, and Alex Robinson, all of whom have brought a level of understanding to what our industry needs from its business partners. My goal is to continue building upon the ideas and relationships created by those who have come before me. I want to listen to what our business partners truly need and be their voice – supporting them to the best of my ability while serving in this position.
Can you describe a time you succeeded as part of a team?
Kaup: The true test of a team comes in the face of adversity; in a post-COVID era, the past three years have brought on a significant struggle with sufficient staffing. Imagining children, within my district, having to stand on the side of the road, waiting for a bus that was not going to come, was a frightening prospect for me. I did not want our community to lose confidence in our ability to safely transport their children. It got to a point where we exhausted all resources – anyone with an CDL who could drive a bus was driving.
What truly showed the power of my team, my personal team in my district, was just the understanding and willingness to support each other. As situations come up, people would respond immediately. They would jump on the radio. They would voluntarily step in and split up routes, “I’ll take these stops, you take those stops, and we’ll get the kids to school.” All this happened without having to ask them – it was truly a beautiful sight to see. There was one day that I vividly remember, I was sitting at a traffic light listening to the back-and-forth on the radio and I was reduced to tears. I knew I had a good team, but it was in that moment that I realized just how proud I was of them; I was so proud that they banded together, and I truly understood that if they had not stepped up we would have not been successful in meeting the needs of our students.
This continued for months. In one particular meeting, I had to respond to district leadership on our current situation, while showing 100 percent support and confidence in my team. The outcome of my response was a resounding standing ovation from the principals and district leadership for what my team had accomplished. At that moment, I knew and know to this day that there is no way that I could have gotten through that difficult operational time without my team.
Vann-Jackson: Oh, my goodness. There’s so many. I feel like every day, there is success, because success is only what you make it, right? A successful day could be being down 50 drivers but you delivered every kid home safely. Success could mean that you overcame a tragedy involving students. Success could mean that you overcame a situation that was highly publicized in the media because pupil transportation is a very external force. There is a lot of ways to define success, but for me, I define success as if we have learned from a situation and accomplished what we set out to do, that is success.
One specific example happened about 13 years ago; we had a situation with a driver who had rolled over a vehicle, fortunately no one was hurt and there was only one student on board. In the process of speaking with a police officer at the scene, we had found that the driver’s license was suspended even though we did several checks to confirm that his licenses were intact. When I got back to my office, I had a media presence knocking at the bus terminal and so, I had to respond. My management team debriefed and determined our response was to be a positive one – we focused on success with an adaptive leadership mindset. We spoke to the fact that no one was hurt and the circumstances were beyond our control with the driver who was no longer driving for our district. This is the type of leadership I plan to bring to NAPT – success will not always look the same and oftentimes great solutions come out of perceived failures.
Valentin: One of my success stories is working with school districts during COVID and helping with the many challenges. But, being able to work with districts on finding the safest way to provide transportation to our children is something will never forget. I see success in communication and in cross training; having a team of twenty individual department leaders build upon each other’s strengths by working together and understanding what it means to work as a solid unit to achieve our goals.
Why should our members be excited for the 2024 NAPT membership year?
Kaup: The biggest thing is that we have returned! We’ve spent the last three years responding and recovering, but now we’ve returned – we’ve gathered, we’ve collaborated, we’ve been able to network, we’ve been able to see each other face to face. All of which took place in an NAPT created environment!
Our association is now at the point where we can focus on moving boldly forward – from maintaining to strategically developing ways that we can connect with the pupil transportation professionals. We can offer proactive support – focusing on not just meeting our members’ needs but on anticipating them. What an exciting time to be on the NAPT leadership journey – let’s go, I’m ready!
Vann-Jackson: The change in leadership; with Molly at the helm and our current board bringing a great deal of knowledge and diversity of thought. We do have challenges and changes ahead of us but we are set to build upon NAPT’s strong foundation; together, we are set up to do great things.
Valentin: A collaborative approach! The members who I have already spoken with are eager and excited to share and our current leadership is here to listen.
Rosalyn, you’re going to be the first African American woman to sit on the NAPT board, and Maritza, you’re the first person of Latin descent to sit on the NAPT board. What does that mean to you and what does it mean for the pupil transportation industry?
Vann-Jackson: Being the first African American woman on the board means that we can say that there is a seat for every person at the table. Regardless of their background, there’s an opportunity for anyone to bring their experience to the table. In all areas of leadership, there is a great deal of angst surrounding who will lead us in the future; we need to look at ways to attract the best pool of talent. For me to be in a leadership role gives others, who look like me, the mindset and determination to know that they too can be in a leadership position.
Valentin: Being the first Hispanic Latina woman person serving in his role comes with a great sense of honor and responsibility. I want to leave a legacy behind for all diverse backgrounds. Growing up, I was always told by my parents, “if you reach for the stars and if you set your mind to do something, you can make it happen.” As a Hispanic, Latina woman, in the past I would always shy away from reaching for those stars, but it has been in the last few years that I see there is no limit for me. Being in this leadership role allows me to represent all those why may shy away from reaching for those stars, I am eager and excited to begin this work.
Kaup: As we continue to move forward and grow, it is important that we reflect and embrace diversity within our leadership, as we are a reflection of our membership. I am proud and honored to serve alongside Rosalyn and Maritza.