MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Stephanie Walker, Habersham County Board of Education

Stephanie Walker, Habersham County Board of Education

School BUSRide spoke with Stephanie Walker, transportation coordinator at Habersham County Board of Education in Georgia, about her district, as well as her completion of all four NAPT certification categories, including Certified Director of Pupil Transportation (CDPT), Certified Supervisor of Pupil Transportation (CSPT), Certified Pupil Transportation Specialist (CPTS) and Certified in Special Needs Transportation (CSNT).

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your district.

I am the transportation director for Habersham County Schools. I have all four national certifications; I received the director and special needs in 2018 and I obtained the supervisor and the specialist last year in 2023. I currently sit as a member for NAPT’s special needs committee and professional development committee.

Habersham County has a population of about 46,000 and we have a bus fleet of around 130. We have about 160 on staff. We are considered rural, however, we actually have seven municipalities within our district.

What is the most pressing challenge for your district’s transportation department?

I hate to say the driver shortage, but it has just become an ongoing issue. Actually, we have done fairly well in terms of driver shortages. We work hard to build our team and build it in a way where driver shortages do not hit us quite as hard. I would have to say the biggest challenge is always trying to invest in our staff members, invest in their continuing education, invest in building the team. We are in a constant battle trying to make that happen. It takes a lot of work, but in the end, it is extremely beneficial.

How are you seeking to solve this challenge?

We invest in continuing education by offering additional training opportunities. We currently have a leadership series that we carry from year to year. The topics are wide-ranging for every possible situation that they might deal with. But it is something that they can utilize to help them do their job and support our students even better. Supporting your staff is the key to success.

Why did you pursue certification and what does it mean to your professional development?

I am always looking for opportunities in continuing education. I truly believe that you cannot get enough information. If you want to be a good leader, you need to always be learning, especially in an industry as specialized as ours. I was going to take the national courses anyway, so I decided to go ahead and pursue the certification as well. NAPT certification provides the whole package to prepare you or sharpen your existing skills in becoming a leader in school transportation. I highly recommend everyone explore the educational opportunities with NAPT to expand their knowledge and create the experts of our future.

As a seasoned professional, what advice can you offer other NAPT members?

Always keep an open mind. Everything you go into, always consider there may be another option. In doing that, you will get some incredible benefits from NAPT. Take the webinars, participate in the classes, the conferences. You will be surprised where you might pick up something you really, really needed. The relationships you build within NAPT will become lifelong friends and great support when you need it.

What can the NAPT organization do to best help you?

I believe offering support at a national or state level is critical for those of us who are in the trenches doing the work. Support and resources are a vital part of making successes throughout the state and the nation.

NAPT does a great job of putting in place support for its members. As time goes on, I think it will continue to grow, specifically in terms of sharing resources and ideas. Often, we think we are the only ones struggling with a given issue but in reality, there is a whole industry of folks looking to address the same problems. So, just providing that connection base for situations and providing more of a network system, I think, will be the future of NAPT.

In the state of Georgia, I am a big supporter of NAPT’s certification program. I mention it anytime I am in a role where I can promote continuing education. I believe in this program. I think it can really go somewhere great. As we continue into the future, our challenges and difficulties will increase. This is where a strong backbone will prevail; NAPT can be this backbone for our industry.

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