TOM LAMANSKY | Transportation Director | Cardinal CSD | Iowa Tom Lamansky’s career fell into place within

a day. He explained that he was teaching and coaching at Cardinal Community School District in Iowa, where he had been for nine years, when he learned of an open assistant principal position at a neigh- boring district. He said at that same time Cardinal’s transportation director was also retiring after 30 years, and Superintendent Joel Pedersen chose Lamansky to succeed him. He had to make a decision that night about which job to take. The rest is history. Pedersen shared that it’s Lamansky’s school ad- ministration background that makes him a unique transportation director, as he also possesses the ability to keep the districts fleet in top-notch shape. “He has brought improved behavior management onto our bus- es though his background while maintaining a positive work culture with his drivers,” he added. Now, four years later, Lamansky, 39, said he loves his job, which could start as early as 3:30 a.m. on poor weather days. He said from the moment the first bus rolls out of the yard, he is monitoring the radio and tak- ing phone calls. His afternoons could be spent repairing buses or handling student discipline.

Lamansky, who also currently serves in the U.S. Army National Guard, said his favorite part of his job is giving high-fives to stu- dents as they load the bus. When he is not substitute driving, he said he walks the bus line to make sure everyone is loading properly. “This is my favorite part of the day because I get to talk to the students and joke with them instead of

disciplining them,” he added. Lamansky said he would like to continue expanding the district’s fleet with newer buses

and technology. As a growing district in rural Iowa, where student enrollment has doubled in the last 10 years, he said the district has had to think outside of the box and uncover new ways to help the students and community. He said he is also focused on updating the shop and purchasing more maintenance equipment. “I would like to see more time and money spent on making buses safer for students,” Lamansky shared. “I think we can do better than [just] seatbelts. Most of the buses currently have very similar designs as they did 20 to 30 years ago. … I believe there should be safer designs for impacts and rollovers that should not increase the purchase price of a bus.”

JASON NELSON | Transportation Supervisor | Kyrene School District | Arizona Jason Nelson, who some readers might

recognize as the host of the “Hey, Bus Driv- er!” podcast, started driving a school bus in the fall of 2010, after working through the challenges of the 2008 economic reces- sion. He was attempting to become a police officer at the time, but most cities had implemented a hiring freeze. His mother was driving a school bus for a dis- trict in Phoenix and convinced him to apply. “[She] encouraged me to try driving a bus, at least as a means to pay bills and have insurance while I looked for something else,” said Nelson, 35, who is going on his 10th year in student transportation. “A few short months later, I had interviewed for the district’s dispatch and routing position, and the sky has been the limit ever since.” Nelson, who is also a past-president of the Transpor-

tation Administrators of Arizona, said his day can be described as “organized chaos.” He said he could be out driving a route, coaching employees on their personal or professional needs, or working on systems and pro- cesses within the department. Of course, he shared, he also attends a lot of meetings and serves as a resource to colleagues around the state. However, his favorite part of his job is the impact he

makes on students and their education. Nelson said one of his personal goals is to continue to grow his podcast

40 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2020

listeners. He shared that he launched the “Hey, Bus Driver!” podcast earlier this year to provide a space for those in pupil transportation to brainstorm ideas and discuss shared chal- lenges the industry faces. “I think there is a lot of value in hearing

from those that are veterans and provid- ing a place for new leaders just getting into the industry, to hear from the daily doers

how they run their operation,” Nelson said. Another of his goals is to continue to teach processes and structure to his fellow colleagues.

In addition to serving as the district transportation super- visor, he works with one of the larger school insurance providers in the state to develop and teach material for new leaders. The program, Leadership in Training, is present- ed by the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, Inc. It has mentored transportation leaders for the past three years. “Eleven years ago, I would have said no way to driving a school bus or even the thought of it, but now I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Nelson said. “I have made some great friends, collaborated with great people, and look forward to how much this industry is going to change in the next 20 years with technology enhance- ments, safety features and the overall way that student transportation will evolve. It will be truly inspiring and exciting to be a part of.”

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