Did you know that every day, approximately 1,277 school buses set out across Oakland County to pick up almost 74,000 students and transport them safely to school? That’s quite a big task! Read below to see how Oakland Schools Transportation Services plays a role in making sure this operation runs smoothly.
Ensuring these students make it to their destination safely and effectively is of utmost importance to schools, parents and our Oakland Schools Transportation Services department, which is responsible for providing the education and support necessary to ensure this goal is met.
“The school bus holds the most potential hazard in a student’s day,” said Lori Richardson, Transportation Services director.
According to Richardson, she, along with her team of Kelli Schultz, transportation specialist, and Elaine Fase, transportation applications specialist, offers professional development and aid to local transportation departments whose resources have diminished over the years. Additionally, the team provides guidance to customers regarding the many state and federal laws, rules and regulations governing school bus transportation.
“We have made it our purpose to provide the information and assistance I would have liked to have while I was in charge of local district operations,” explained Richardson, who is the former transportation director for Utica Schools. “First and foremost, we provide education for all persons involved in busing students. This includes bus drivers, routers, dispatchers, mechanics, office personnel as well as supervision.”
For example, Oakland Schools is one of 16 training agencies in the state who offers, manages and tracks the School Bus Safety Education classes required by state law for school bus drivers and supervisors to take. Oakland Schools also provides School Bus Driver’s Continuing Education classes as well as Supervisor Continuing Education courses. Richardson said during the 2017-2018 school year, 1,084 people attended one of Oakland Schools School Bus Safety Education Classes.
Richardson and her team also track the annual Transportation Expenditure Report audit/reviews and provide analysis to all Oakland County districts to help them understand their costs, comparable district costs and what impacts those costs.
“I work with business managers to ensure they are reporting as they should to maximize their state aid,” Richardson explained.
Hosting and participating in monthly meetings with Oakland County transportation directors and school bus driver trainers’ associations is also key.
Some of the training and workshops Transportation Services provide to assist districts includes:
- SE-4094 Transportation Expenditure Report workshop
- Train the Trainer, three-day class for school bus driver trainers
- Trainer’s Sharing Day – held every fall and spring.
- Transportation Office Staff workshop for dispatchers, routers and department administrative assistants
- Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing workshop
Some other big events the department supports is the Oakland County School Bus Road-eo and the Oakland County Excellence in Transportation Banquet. Both are held yearly and have participants and recipients from the majority of school districts in Oakland County.
As if that isn’t enough, Richardson is a member of the Agency Association of Michigan (TAAM). TAAM is responsible for developing all the school bus safety curriculum required by Michigan Law under the Pupil Transportation Act 187. Richardson is chair of the Beginning Bus Driver Committee on TAAM and is responsible for any necessary updates/revisions to the Beginning curriculum.
She additionally developed the entire six-hour School Bus Drivers Continuing Education Curriculum for the current two-year training cycle and co-authored several of the previous cycles. Approximately 17,000 school bus drivers in Michigan must complete this curriculum by Sept. 30, 2019.
Richardson, who began working for Oakland Schools in 2008 but retired in 2011, still works one-third of a schedule here. She said she has always found Oakland Schools to be tremendously supportive of the work she and her team accomplishes.
“As in every department within Oakland Schools, administration and the Board of Education has always supported our department’s goal to obtain and share all the knowledge we can to support our districts and keep all transported students, staff and community members safe,” she said.
Sarah Davis is the communications specialist for Oakland Schools.