NAPT Summit Capped by Special Needs Award

From left: Q'Straint/Sure-Lok's Trisha Nolen, Utah's Launi Harden and Oregon's Chris Ellison, a member of NAPT's Awards Committee.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Q’Straint/Sure-Lok named Launi Harden as the NAPT Special Needs Transportation Award winner, capping a dozen recognitions during the closing session of the association’s summit.

Harden, the director of transportation for Washington County School District in St. George, Utah, is a past Peter J. Grandolfo Memorial of Excellence winner and a former NAPT board member and treasurer, who also served on the NAPT Special Needs Committee. She has previously received the Leland Larson Quality Transportation Award and was a key player in starting NAPT’s Leading Every Day Program.

She also chairs her states in-service and special needs transportation committee, has represented the state at numerous National Congresses on School Transportation has been the co-chair for the general operations writing committee and is the chair for the specially equipped school bus specifications for special needs.

Also on Tuesday, NAPT members voted the artwork of eigth grader Branden Pagurayan from Kapolei Middle School in Hawaii as the overall winner of the 2016 School Bus Safety Poster Contest. Melia La Fleur attended the same school last year when her artwork won the 2015 contest.

Earlier in the week, Frank DiGiacomo, the publisher emeritus of School Bus Fleet, was inducted into the NAPT Hall of Fame. He joins SBF founder Ed Bobbitt and former School Bus Fleet Editor and Publisher Bill Paul, the founder of School Transportation News.

Teena Mitchell, the special needs manager for Greenville County Schools in South Carolina, won the Thomas Built Buses Continuing Education Award. Fred Anness, a pre-service instructor for Warren County Educational Service Center in Ohio, won the IC Bus School Bus Driver Training Award.

Reneita Smith won the Blue Bird Heroism Award. Smith, a driver for Prince George’s County Public Schools, safely evacuated a bus full of students in September when a fire erupted on board. She then ran back onto the burning, smoke-filled bus to ensure no students were left behind. Smith, a single mother of two, was later invited to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres’ show and received a check for $20,000 from Shutterfly.

NAPT also recognized the five winners of the annual Zonar Scholarship. They are: Ronna Gerst, transportation director at Mapleton Public Schools in Colorado; Zack McKinney, director of transportation at Clinton Central School Corporation in Indiana; Debbie Miller, transportation supervisor at Wadsworth City Schools in Ohio; and Randy Mills and Joshua Schleicher, both assistant supervisors of transportation at Washington County Public Schools in Maryland.

Heather Handschin, the coordinator of transportation for Spotsylvania County Public Schools in Virginia, won the Brandon Billingsley Memorial Continuing Education Scholarship. Her application was selected from a number of others for the description of her transportation journey and commitment to continuing education. Her application also received a boost from a recommendation from the district’s transportation director, Kenny Forrest. 

“I thank the Billingsley family and NAPT for this opportunity, and encourage others to actively seek similar ones,” she told STN. “What can be learned by one person during a summit is priceless, and then multiplied many times over when shared back home.”

Coincidentally, Handschin later was selected by School Transportation News in a trade show drawing as the winner of an all-expenses-paid trip to the TSD Conference in March.

As previously reported, the America’s Best School Bus Inspector and School Bus Technician were named, as were the three winners of the annual Peter and Linda Lawrence Scholarship to the NAPT Summit and the 36 school districts that won the Don Carnahan Memorial Technology Grants.