School BUSRide spoke with Alex M. Spann, CDPT – transportation consultant for the State of Tennessee, Department of Education, and the National Association of Pupil Transportation® (NAPT®) Board member representing Region 2 – about the upcoming NAPT Road Show in Nashville. Spann details the impact of attending the upcoming Road Show for networking and professional education, as well as member feedback from the first event.

Tell us about yourself and your work with the National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT).

Alex Spann: My full-time job is student transportation consultant for Tennessee Department of Education. We are a two-person team responsible for 147 school districts and a number plethora of charter schools who oversee the training of all transportation supervisors across the state. Tennessee law requires them to undergo professional development hours each year and it is our responsibility to assist in the administration and monitoring of this. We partner with our fellow state agencies and the Tennessee Association of Pupil Transportation to offer our trainings.

Alex M. Spann, CDPT

Along with the training of directors/supervisors, we are also responsible for the on-site monitoring of school transportation offices across the state as well as the administration of state-funded grants, including our 100 percent reimbursement grant for seat restraints on school buses should a district choose to utilize the funds.

In 2021, I was appointed to serve the remainder of a term as Region 2 Director. Region 2 encompasses the Southeastern portion of the United States and Ontario, Canada. It is a critical time to be part of the NAPT Board of Directors as we work hard to reengage our membership in a post 2020 world, refocus NAPT’s mission and vision, and execute on our newly adopted strategic plan under new leadership. It is certainly a challenging endeavor to help shape where NAPT is going, given the organizational and industry changes but nevertheless an exciting and fun experience. I look forward to what is on the horizon for NAPT!

Please explain the impact of attending in-person conferences like NAPT® Road Show.

Spann: I think it comes down to two things. Number one is, do you want to continue to learn?

There are people in this industry that have been in their positions as transportation leaders for a very short amount of time, and there are people that made careers out of it. Both ends of that spectrum are needed to make this world work. You rely on the institutional knowledge of people with long experience and success, but also value the new vision of those who have just come into leadership roles. They may see things from a different perspective than someone who has been in that role for 25 or 30 years. 

An example is my mentor: She has been in this industry for almost 30 years, and I have tremendous respect for her and her experience.  Our relationship is enhanced and beneficial by our willingness to challenge each other but then work together to achieve the best outcomes for the operation.

Number two is, do you want to have a voice? The NAPT® Road Show varies from the annual conference just based on the sheer size difference in the crowd. The annual conference is very large, and people look forward to that. Long-time friends and business connections are there, and it’s a great place to connect with industry leaders.

The NAPT® Road Show is a much more intimate setting with limited capacity, and it really gives people that want to have a voice in the industry the opportunity to make their voice heard. An experience or idea in a room with 150 like-minded individuals can really take hold and spark conversation and forward thinking. It may lead to a new theory being tested by someone in a different state. That’s a dynamic you might not experience at a larger gathering. That intimate size enables you to really talk to everybod y in the room and hear everyone’s experiences with shared issues that we all face. Having time and capability to do that is one of the most critical aspects of the NAPT® Road Show.

Can you share with us the feedback that you have heard from members within your region about the Houston Road Show and why Tennessee opted to host the October Road Show?

Spann: The NAPT team worked hard to bring to life the new event concept that is The Road Show and the positive feedback that I’ve heard reflected their work. Attendees felt valued, they were able to be in the room and share their stories. One attendee shared with me that she felt that this event gave her a voice to share her experiences and the outcomes which will now help her fellow industry peers and will ultimately enhance the pupil transportation industry for the better. These comments support and encompass the NAPT vision to create a world where every student has access to safe and efficient transportation. What a wonderful thing! You asked me why Tennessee opted to host the October Road Show, I think that that feedback alone answers the question. The only question left to ask is who wouldn’t want to be part of something like that?

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