New NSTA Board Members Bring With Them a Sense of Family

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Next month, members of the National School Transportation Association will begin work with four new board members, three of which have deep family ties to the school bus industry.

The NSTA nominating committee announced the nominations a little more than a month away from the annual NSTA convention, which takes place July 24-28 in St. Louis.

One of the new members to take their place on the board is Rochelle Bast, the vice president and operations director of Riteway Bus in southeastern Wisconsin, where the company serves 25 school districts with more than 500 school buses and 700 employees that operate out of eight terminals. Rochelle and her brother Ron are second-generation management at Riteway, and her niece Wendy Siedlecki and nephew R.J. Bast are third-generation management.

About 100 miles to the south in Chicago, John Benish Jr. also knows a thing or two about school buses. The chief operating officer for Cook-Illinois Corporation grew up with yellow in his blood thanks to his father and company CEO John Benish, Sr. Cook-Illinois operates 14 different subsidiaries, including the oldest school bus contracting operation in the U.S., which began in 1915. Cook-Illinois Corp., is and continues to be an industry leader in green technology as it relates to school bus transportation. The company was the first school bus contractor to power its fleet using CNG during the 1970s, propane in the 1980s, and it now powers 95 percent of its fleet using biodiesel. Cook-Illinois Corp., provides service for two of the largest special education cooperatives in the state of Illinois, transporting over 13,000 special education students throughout the Chicago-land area every day.

Meanwhile, Gail Hyser also joins the NSTA board as a family prodigy. The president of Wilson’s Bus Service, Inc., in Pasadena, Md., she started with the company officially in 1981 to help with the office duties and dispatching for her parents, John and Diana Wilson. Over the last two decades she rose the ranks from bus driver to company leader. Wilson’s Bus Service oversees an operation of 18 school buses that are contracted with Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

Last but not least, John Gillie of First Student also joins NSTA, though he without the same familial background as his new fellow board members. The new senior vice president of commercial development at the largest school bus contractor in North America, Gillie is responsible for the development and implementation of sales strategies to grow the business.