Todd Watkins enjoys working from home at his lake house, where he has also enjoyed taking up water sports. Most students at Montgomery County Public Schools are online for the first semester of the school year.

every time somebody thinks of the depart- ment of transportation, I want them to think about how we help them. Because one of the things I’m trying to

do is to layoff proof my employees.” His staff is also participating in virtual pro-

fessional development, which he shared does have its benefits. Not only can more people communicate, the department has been able to eliminate some paper documentation. “There [are] a lot of benefits to being able to communicate widely with everybody elec- tronically,” Watkins shared. “And I think our department has grown during this pandemic as a result of that.” He said now his staff has the confidence that messages are getting to those who most need them. While he noted there are advantages to in-person training, video training allows staff to learn at their leisure, while the program verifies assignments are completed. Watkins said he anticipates a combination of virtual and in-person training going forward, which will improve the department’s training meth- odology. Prior to the pandemic, Watkins shared the

MCPS transportation staff barely utilized their district e-mail accounts. But now, an electron- ic newsletter is sent via email to everybody, to the point where the employees have stopped printing it. He said supervisors worked with all employees on how to use their emails and it’s been working out very well. They have also been conducting Zoom calls,

but they are not mandatory and not used as often. He said, however, it’s a way to catch up and see how everybody is doing. Since June, supervisors have been calling their employees to check in and see how they’re doing. Watkins said his department also makes a concerted effort to follow up with any positive COVID-19 cases and talk with them every day of their diagnosis. “Were following up not only daily with the

person who gets a positive diagnosis, but also with all the people that we contact traced that

50 School Transportation News • NOVEMBER 2020

Wellness Program Further Exemplifies Employee Morale

One benefit of working for a larger school system, Todd Watkins shared, is a few years back the Montgomery County Public Schools transportation department converted one of its management positions into a full-time wellness coach. Watkins said having someone on staff to run the program fits with the department’s philosophy of taking care of employees. Watkins said the wellness coach gets creative and provides everything from educational seminars, to cooking lessons, to a variety of movement and fitness classes. He said every level of fitness experience among his drivers and staff is addressed, from seated exercises to Zumba classes. He said the wellness coach even teaches school bus drivers how to perform some of these exercises in a school bus, either in the middle aisle or by using a school bus seat. That way, they can stay active when waiting for students at a sporting or activity trip or during other slow times of their day.

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