In this month’s NAPT Member Spotlight, we spoke to Alicia Williams, manager of transportation and child nutrition for Waukegan School District 60 in Waukegan, Illinois.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your district
My name is Alicia Williams. I am the manager of transportation and child nutrition for Waukegan School District 60. We are a district of approximately 14,000 students and we transport roughly 5,000 to 6,000 kids on yellow buses from grades pre-K through eight. For our high school students, we partner with our public transportation service, so they use what we call a PACE bus.
What is the most pressing challenge for your district’s transportation department?
Unlike most districts, we have not suffered as heavily from the driver shortage. Our biggest challenge is just trying to stay up to date with the technology. We are currently upgrading to a new routing system, so that has been an extensive transition. The volume of changes and requests that we receive from parents is a lot because school just started last week.. We contract out our school buses through a third-party vendor, so they have their own management team, their own safety department. I oversee that operation, so they are responsible for more of the hands-on, hiring and training.
I also have four in-district bus drivers whose daily operations I oversee, and we have two different high school campuses, so they shuttle between the two different campuses throughout the day and do field trips as well.
How are you seeking to solve these challenges?
We have been lucky to avoid a driver shortage and it has really been all about how we route our buses. We are putting more students on each route, filling up the buses so that we can free up drivers and have more routes. We are not maxing our buses out, but we are putting as many as we can on our routes to make sure we have enough routes that are covered.
As a seasoned professional, what advice can you offer other NAPT members?
That transportation is forever changing. Have patience and do your best to stay on top of it, because it changes all the time. It is unpredictable, but if you have the right skills and support system, you can make it work.
What can the NAPT organization do to best help you?
More conferences would be great. But even offering more virtual training that is a little easier to access. It can be hard to attend one event and catch up on everything for the whole year. I think more interaction with members and more events would make it easier to pick and choose, especially if you have limited availability.
What are you most excited about for the return of the NAPT Conference and Trade Show?
There is a presentation on electric busing that I am really looking forward to. That is a big thing right now and having the opportunity to learn more about what is on the horizon will be an exciting experience. I am also looking forward the classes that cover accidents and safety protocols. I am glad to see that. It is something that I have been trying to work on and figure out, so I am glad there is a class that will provide some insight.
I always enjoy the keynote speakers. They always have something great to say. Friday is Accident Investigations, and I am really looking forward to that as well. Basically, attend the conferences and build relationships. That is what I am working on, trying to build relationships with other people in this industry so we all have someone to learn from and work with.