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Q&A PQ&A


aul Osland was well-prepared to take the reins last summer of North America’s largest school bus con- tractor, First Student, accepting


the role of interim president when Dennis Maple resigned in July. After a two-month executive search, the company realized it had the right man all along. Osland previously was the national


contractor’s chief operating officer for three years, following nearly four years as the chief facilities officer for Chicago Public Schools, which included the role


STN: First off, a potential company sale by your parent


company, FirstGroup plc, that was announced late last year has many in the school bus industry curious about what happens next. Can you provide an update? What are you telling existing and prospective customers?


Osland: We take great pride in the tremendous amount of trust our customers place in us. We know that a school district partners with a contractor that shares its commitment to transporting their students to and from school safely, on time and ready to learn. Our parent company is exploring options, including a potential sale, in large part because of First Student’s strength and strong performance the last several years. If a sale of First Student does occur, it will have no impact on First Student’s current or future commitments to our school districts, families and communities. Our team takes great pride in being a vital part of the communities where we operate. We have and will continue to deliver the best possible service.


STN: As you reflect on the past nine months of your


tenure as president, what are you most proud of in terms of strides the company has made?


Osland: I’ve very proud of my team, both collectively and as individuals. In addition to our relentless focus on safety, we have promoted leaders who embrace our customer-centric culture. We’ve invested further in their development and the talent of our management team. We also welcome new ways of thinking and brought in talent that has infused new ideas to elevate our operations. As our team has upped its game, our customers have responded. Our customer satisfaction scores are in line


26 School Transportation News • APRIL 2020


as executive director of transportation. He is also a former vice president of marketing for AmeriTech, now known as AT&T, Inc., which was formed by the 2006 merger of SBC Communications and AT&T Corp. School Transportation News caught up with Osland in February, when he represented First Student at the National Conference on Education and awarded the


National Superintendent of the Year award, with co-


sponsors AIG Retirement Services and the American Association of School Administrators.


with all-time highs. Our customer retention rates are exceeding our expectations. And as we listen, first, then present the First Student


story, we continue to win a high share of new business, such as Indianapolis Public Schools, the Pocono Mountain School District (in northeast Pennsylvania) and the Norris- town Area School District (near Philadelphia) for vans. It all starts with people, and we have the best team in the business.


STN: Speaking of vans, what does the company’s expansion of contracted nonyellow bus service, apps and transportation management indicate about the evolution of the student transportation industry, and contractors specifically?


Osland: We listen to our customers, and from those


conversations we uncover insights that help us better meet the needs of our passengers, school districts and employees. Our customers are the catalyst that drive our innovation pipeline. We do not take “off- the-shelf” products. We work with our vendors and partners to develop the customized solutions to meet customer needs. Take, for example, our van service. This addresses the


growing need to transport students experiencing home- lessness, out of district students and special population students. This is a large population whose needs are often unmet. We’re also piloting FirstServes, a program that en- hances the transportation experience of special education students. Our FirstView bus-tracking app, FirstACTS behavior-management app, and First Feed- back website provide meaningful tools for parents and


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