Ariel Rodriguez attributes his personal as well as the district’s successes to the entire team of fleet maintenance professionals that he works with at Humble ISD north of Houston, along with Director of Transportation J.P. Burd (far right, second row) and Assistant Director Cindy Black (far right, first row).

should come. And I told him I had never worked on school buses,” Rodriguez recalled. “He said, yeah, but you can pick it up. … He knew the type of technician I was.” Mark Swackhamer was the fleet manager

at Houston ISD at the time. “It did not take long for him to become recognized as a go-getter and for his willingness to help oth- ers,” recalled Swackhamer, who nominated Rodriguez for Rising Stars recognition this summer. “He created a very positive work atmosphere in the shop and pulled together a great team environment.” Rodriguez soon became Houston ISD’s expert mechanic, which Swackhamer said monitors the quality of preventive mainte- nance and the technicians who work at the four bus shops. Rodriguez also trained the staff on new technology, helped to identify fleet- wide issues and then developed solutions. Meanwhile, Rodriguez took first place at the 2009 state school bus mechanics roadeo, which qualified him to compete that year at the America’s Best School Bus Inspector and Technician event. He finished second in the national inspector category. When Swackhamer left Houston ISD in 2014 to become the assistant director at Humble ISD, he tapped Rodriguez to man- age the fleet. “He came into the position two weeks before school started. Over a third of the bus fleet was out of service and the shop environment was less than cohesive,” Swackhamer remembered. “Over the course of the next few years, he once again pulled the shop into a winning team and reduced costs, increased fleet up-time, and all but

Humble ISD has avoided the

issues that many diesel fleets

are struggling with. “With a good preventive maintenance program, you

really don’t have

to deal with regen issues,” said Ariel Rodriguez. “Our biggest challenge is keeping up with all of the A/C work.”


Transportation News readers

submitted 101 total nominations of 96 individuals to be considered for the magazine’s 4th Annual Rising Stars profiles. Including Ariel Rodriguez, the magazine chose 10 finalists. Turn to page 48 to meet more up-and-

coming industry

professionals, and review all who

were nominated at go/rising2019.

eliminated out-sourced repairs.” Ever since, Humble ISD has continuously been ranked among the only school districts, mostly from Texas, that have been listed in Tom Johnson’s Best 100 Fleets in the Ameri- cas for the past eight years. The government and public organizations that have been recognized since 2005 for meeting detailed and specific 12-point criteria are a who’s who of city, county and private fleets, state departments of transportation, water and power utilities, military bases, and universi- ties. It should come as no surprise then, that Houston ISD was the first school district to make the prestigious list in 2011. For 2019, Humble ISD ranked No. 33, just behind nearby Galena Park ISD at No. 26. Last year, Humble ISD was No. 14, the highest finish ever for a school district. Also, for the past two years, Humble ISD finished higher than Alvin ISD, where Swackhamer is now the director of transportation. Swackhamer said he’s proud to see Rodri-

guez and Humble ISD succeed before issuing a warning to his protege. “The 100 Best Fleets in the Americas is a great program. It keeps us looking for new and better things to do and improve on,” he said, adding, “We will outrank him (in 2020).” Never to be anyone’s punching bag, though

he’ll gladly hold one for a pugilist, Rodriguez said he will continue to bob and weave, with an eye on eventually becoming an assistant director or director of transportation at a school district. “Absolutely,” he said, when asked if he is

interested in leading all aspects of a transporta- tion department. “Wherever this road takes us.” Swackhamer said Rodriguez wins the

proverbial tale of the tape. “Ariel has also always helped with transportation operations by working with students, drivers, routers and campuses to help however he can,” he concluded. “Someday, he will make a great transportation director. He is a true rising star who always puts others before himself.” 47

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