2014 NAPT Conference in Kansas City, Missouri
"As the school transportation industry's largest and most diverse membership organization, NAPT is dedicated to providing cutting-edge education and certification programs, facilitating strong business relationships, influencing industry standards, and celebrating member accomplishments."
Thus reads the opening statement in the Who We Are portion of the NAPT website; but it goes far, far beyond that. NAPT involves individuals and corporations from every level of School Transportation from across the country as well as around the world. It is truly an all encompassing entity overseeing the safety of our children, those often referred to as "our most precious cargo".
2014 MAPT Conference in Springfield, Mo.
In July of 2014 I attended the M(issouri) APT conference in Springfield, Missouri. Along with the continuing education classes offered to enhance those within the industry, I was fortunate to be awarded the Missouri Administrator Of The Year Award for our creation and development of the J.A.C.O.B. Under Bus Camera System for viewing beneath the bus in those dangerous situations revolving around the bus stops. I was then invited to attend the NAPT conference in Kansas City. After speaking with my superintendent, I was encouraged to attend as it rarely is held in a location close enough to warrant attending. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone in this area.
So after joining the NAPT (inclusion in MAPT does not mean one is in NAPT) I set out to make plans to attend. Overnight stays at the hotel hosting the conference allowed me to stay as close as possible, thereby minimizing the need to drive anywhere. The conference began on Friday, November 7 but I held off travel until the end of my work day Friday, preferring to begin classes the next morning. I traveled to Kansas City that evening, arriving about 8:00 PM.
That was about when culture shock set in. Now I am a country boy, and even the area I live in is too large for me. But this? I will be honest: fear set in, bringing with it all the possibilities that go hand in hand with the Big City.
The first person I met after parking in the underground garage (a first for me) was a gentleman who hailed from upstate New York. I mentioned my uneasiness about this large city, stating that I came from a city of 3,500. To which he said "That qualifies as a city around here?" Talk about feeling small!!
To put this into perspective: the desk clerk told me that this one hotel could hold every person in my town, all 3,500 of them! And this is but one of many in the immediate area!
Classes began Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. Sunday and Monday held suit, with classes running from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. These classes are part of a curriculum by which one can become accredited as a Transportation Professional with NAPT. This is known as the Professional Development Series (PDS) and includes roughly 40 classes one can attend. Topic areas include: Orientation, Communications, Financial Management, Human Resources Management, Physical Resource Management, Operations/Systems Management, Leadership, Special Education, and Emergency Management. One can attend the annual summit in their respective states; attend the national summit; and also complete some online.
I have now attended four state summits and my first national summit. In each I have found the instructors to be knowledgeable, engaging, and full of insight periodically interspersed with just the right amount of humor.
Along with these classes are various side groups one may pick and choose from. Each has a guest speaker and the range of topics is wide and varied. In this year's national summit I sat in on a session headed by the Honorable Chris Hart, an attorney who is a Presidential Appointee to the National Transportation Safety Board. Along with Mr. Hart were Bill Arrington and David Cooper, both of which work for the TSA, or Transportation Security Administration. All three presenters gave vital information to those of us in the Transportation business, along with contact points should we ever require their assistance.
On Sunday afternoon I attended an unusual presentation. Gary Moore, retired Missouri State Highway Patrol officer held a large group of Transportation Professionals spellbound as he took us through the kidnapping event which occurred on January 29, 2013 in Midland City, Alabama. If you are not aware of this incident, it occurred down a dead end road where the driver would perform a turnaround. The assailant had built a location which eased the turnaround; befriended the driver and groomed him by offering him home grown vegetables. He then stepped onto the bus with those vegetables and handed the driver a note demanding two young boys to be held as captives. The driver refused, and the assailant murdered him on the bus in full view of the students. He then took one young boy off and held him captive for six days in an underground bunker.
The standoff ended when SWAT teams blew the top off of the bunker, threw in some flash-bang grenades and entered the doorway. The first SWAT team member through became entangled with some cables in the entrance. The assailant shot at him eight times: and missed every time. The other members moved into the bunker and killed the assailant while rescuing the young boy unharmed. No one else was injured in the rescue.
Moore gives a unique perspective on this as he has spoken at length with those directly involved, and has also shown his presentation to them so if anyone knows exactly what happened, when and how it occurred it will be Moore. In addition to the slides and his speech, we were allowed to listen to the actual 911 call from a 16 year old young man by the name of Tre' Watts on the bus at the time, as well as two calls from the man holding the boy hostage. In Springfield, we were allowed to actually view the bus video of the murder and situation on the bus as it unfolded. Moore did not present this at the NAPT conference, and I agree that it was too real for the majority of those attending to view. I still do not have the sound of the shots out of my head, nor the looks on those poor children's faces as they realized their bus driver was really dead, and that to escape they had to maneuver past his lifeless body.
I have to add that, although this is no laughing matter and is serious to the extreme, Moore injects exactly the right amount of self-deprecating humor to take the edge off of the audience. Just when a particular portion is getting almost too much to bear, he reels it back from the edge with a statement and allows the audience to take a breath once more.
Tre' Watts was invited to the NAPT to receive an award for his heroism in this situation. His father was along as well and sat in on the presentation by Moore. I must say that this young man, only on the bus for two weeks prior to this day, was unbelievably calm during the 911 call. Everything was "Yes, Ma'am; No Ma'am" during the conversation, and when he had to tell the operator that his bus driver had been shot and was dead, his voice inflection never wavered. This young man had nerves of steel! I was honored to meet he and his father and to shake their hands, while telling them how proud we are of him.
In addition to the classes, sidebar meetings and mainline seminars, there is a trade show involving all of the sponsors and vendors associated with the business of pupil transportation. Buses, parts, manufacturers galore which offer anything from video surveillance on the bus to air conditioning, it is there. Everyone is friendly, helpful and open to questions from any and all who might have them. If you are in need of something to help with the transportation of students to and from school chances are you will find it here.
The location for this year's show was downtown Kansas City, and boy do I mean downtown! Right off I-35 there are a myriad of hotels in the immediate area. I spent the first two days at the Marriott and the final two days across the street at the Holiday Inn Aladdin. The Marriott has a skywalk which crosses the street and joins up with the Muehlebach Hotel. Every President from Theodore Roosevelt through Ronald Reagan visited this hotel, and it is a beautiful example of yesteryear's finest. I wandered downstairs into the Tea Room, the Pam Pam Restaurant among other areas. In one room, I thought I was walking into the hotel in The Shining. The bar looked exactly like the one Jack Nicholson sat at, visiting with that bartender who was a ghost. It gave me the shivers, I can tell you!
The Aladdin is another hundred year old hotel that has had a facelift, and while not as showy as the Muehlebach, it is nonetheless beautiful in its own right. As I entered the lobby I saw something I had not seen since boyhood: one of those circular seating sofas with the round central back. There was one in the library I visited as a child and I always remembered sitting on it while reading a book, waiting on my mother to get her book for the week.
One other item which stood out to me in these timeless hotels was that each still held onto the past, including the old fashioned mailboxes one each floor where travelers throughout history could drop their letters into a slot and have them fall to the main lobby where they would be contained in a gorgeous brass mailbox. It was nice to see a part of our history surviving in today's modern world.
- Photos of Holiday Inn Kansas City Downtown - Aladdin in Kansas City, Missouri
Official site - View pictures of Holiday Inn Kansas City Downtown - Aladdin. See hotel photos, read reviews, learn about amenities, and book with Best Price Guarantee.
The only negative thing I have to say about the entire experience is the dining options offered in the area. Being downtown means there is no fast food restaurants within the area other than a Burger King. Denny's is some six blocks away but even it is not the normal open 24 hours a day that I know of. On Saturday and Sunday, the eateries in the area close down but for these two restaurants and the hotel's menu. Now, if you don't mind paying upwards of $15 for two eggs over easy, a slice of bacon and toast then they are for you; but when you have a $25 per day diem, that just won't work. And as for dinner! Well, let's just say that your $25 won't get you much more that a burger and fries there.
Overall, I found this to be a delightful, insightful, and enjoyable few days spent with those who feel as I do in the industry of carrying the most precious of all cargo, our children. It is quite easy to feel overwhelmed, undervalued, and all alone in our little portion of the world but by attending this summit, I found that no matter how alone I may feel, assistance and insight, ideas and a shoulder to lean on is as close as a phone call. Everyone I met was pleasant, well mannered, and willing to discuss whatever I desired to discuss. This truly is a community bent on nothing more than helping their fellow man.
What a blessing!