NAPT Member Spotlight: Karen Middleton, CDPT

School BUSRide spoke with Karen Middleton, CDPT, director of transportation at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. She completed her CDPT certification in 2023, and spoke with us about that experience, as well as the unique challenges her district faces.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your district.

Woodward Academy is one of the largest private schools in Atlanta. I am the Director of Transportation and lead an exemplary team of administrators, bus drivers and mechanics. 

We currently have 53 buses and service a multitude of counties in the area, providing transportation for our students at Woodward Academy to and from school, home, and their extracurricular activities.

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

Like many other transportation departments, we have been faced with driver shortages, which took a toll on just about everyone, but we are slowly building back up. We have upstanding, caring, committed, professional and dedicated drivers who enjoy being at Woodward.

How are you seeking to solve this challenge?

One way we’ve dealt with the challenge of driver shortages is by offering more competitive pay rates. That made a substantial difference in terms of recruitment because we are now competitive with our public-school counterparts as well, which garnered a lot of people’s interest in Woodward Academy. We also have very eye grabbing buses with our Woodward Academy red logo stripe that travel north, south, east and west of Atlanta, Georgia. 

Why is certification important to you and what does it mean for your professional development?

I started pursuing my certification a while ago and the classes that I needed I was able to complete online. The online process was user friendly, and I was able to finish my course work earlier than I expected. 

CDPT certification was the next step in the progression of achievements for me. It provides national creditability and demonstrates a commitment to be in a leadership role in order to make the greatest impact at WA Student Transport and the student transportation industry.

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

As an NAPT member, I have benefited from their webinars and relayed valuable lessons to my team here at WA Student Transport. Obtain your national certification in the area of your choice. Remain an active member and stay abreast of the evolving changes in the industry and evolve with the change. 

The extensive collegial network has also been very beneficial. You get a chance to share, and you would be surprised how many other people, other directors or other members are going through similar challenges. Connecting with people and learning how they handled and resolved the issue is tremendously helpful and inspirational. 

Ask for help if you need help. NAPT is always available to give that guidance or put you in touch with someone who can provide that guidance. 

What can the NAPT organization do to best help you?

Continued support, educating NAPT members in the student transportation industry and annual conferences.

I love the annual conferences. Each conference in itself is priceless. Attending conferences gives you the opportunity to attend classes, network with colleagues and vendors from other areas of the United States, meet and hear elite guest speakers from other organizations and associations and learn what’s ahead for the future of the transportation industry

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