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FIRST TAKE The Bus Driver’s Superintendent WRITTEN BY RYAN GRAY | RYAN@STNONLINE.COM T


ime and again I hear from veteran student transporters about how they got their start as school bus drivers many moons ago. Te stories are all similar. A college student is look-


ing for a part-time job, and the school bus schedule fits perfectly between classes and homework. Others simply always wanted to drive a school bus. Dr. William C. Collins, superintendent of the


Newington Public School District outside of Hartford, Connecticut, fits both bills. Most kindergarten students who have their jacket caught in the loading doors as the bus pulls away from the stop—on the first day of school, no less—might be scarred for life. Not Collins. “You’d think that would leave me a bad taste in my mouth, but it was the other way around,” he said, laughing. So much so that more than a decade later, as a student at Central Connecticut State University, he applied for a part-time driving position with local contractor DuFour Brothers, now All-Star Transportation. He recalled the first day of training alongside several entry-level driver candidates. Collins inherently knew his way behind the wheel, even nailing a K-turn on his first try. Meanwhile, the others felt lost. “Te safety director couldn’t believe it, it was kind of


funny,” Collins said. Collins went on to win a driving category at a Con- necticut School Transportation Association roadeo. Since, he’s done a bit of everything in transportation,


from dispatch to contracts to operations management. Ten about eight years ago, he assumed his current position as the lead administrator at Newington, and he continues to be a sub driver when needed. What a nice feather in the cap for the district’s driver corps. “Our drivers are just amazing. Tey’ve been with us for so long,” Collins said. “Te other day there was a question of bad weather, (so) I took the bus out myself just to make sure the roads were OK. I said, ‘I’d never send you guys out there if I thought there was any harm.’ I’m the first one to call off with ice, it’s a whole different story.” He’s the bus driver’s superintendent if there ever was one.


10 School Transportation News • APRIL 2016 His story as well as that of Newington is the perfect


foreword for this month’s edition, and especially the focus on apps that track school bus location and the decision on whether or not to outsource of transporta- tion services. Te district has a fleet of 55 full-size school buses and several more Type A vehicles with wheelchair lifts to transport 3,000 students each day out of a total enrollment of 4,300. According to National Center for Education Statistics, that places Newington among the nation’s largest segment of school districts, 15 percent, in terms of its overall size in relation to all other districts that are larger or small. A self-proclaimed, working-class town, Newington is also the poster child of school bus technology. Collins said Wi-Fi is being added throughout the bus fleet, as all students receive Chrome books as part of the district’s one-to-one program. All buses are equipped with GPS and four-channel HD video camera systems, and the district is transitioning to real-time footage in partner- ship with the security department. Newington also uses the Transfinder Infofinder bus tracking app for parents that works alongside the routing software. If that’s not enough, all buses have tinted windows, not only to keep the students cooler in the warm months but, as Collins said, “We don’t put kids in plain sight in case there’s a situation. If you can’t see who’s in there, you can’t aim. Despite Collins’ background in contracted services,


Newington owns and operates its own fleet because, heretofore, that’s what makes the most fiscal sense for the district. Tough Collins was quick to point out that the district regularly outsources certain “one-off” routes that entail transporting a student with a disability or one requiring service under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act over longer distances. “When it makes sense to do that we do that, but all of our in-town routes we do ourselves,” he said. “I’ve been able to keep a lid on my costs, no dealing with 7-percent increases. Whenever it comes up, ‘Why don’t we out- source?’, (Contractors) have to make money.” 


Ryan Gray Editor-in-Chief


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