Seeking to ensure school bus safety


Aimed at keeping transportation officials up to date on the latest legislation about school bus safety, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) is comprised of members who pride themselves in putting safety first and educating motorists in the process.

The Nassau County chapter of NYAPT covers 56 districts. The NYAPT was founded in 1974, said Oceanside School District Transportation Supervisor Janet Meltzer, a member since 2000. “We wanted to get the word out about the organization and promote positive school bus transportation,” she said. “Our mission is to ensure safety and security of our school children everyday.”

Hewlett-Woodmere Transportation Director Michael Sgambati joined NYAPT two years ago because he wanted to keep up to date on an ever-changing industry. “It’s a collective group of my peers and we get together once a month and discuss any issues that have come up,” he said. “Last year school transportation got a bad rap in the media and I want everyone to know that we have a lot of safety procedures in place and ones that we’re trying to implement.”

Sgambati said his main concern is getting students to and from school safely. “So many children ride the school bus; the yellow school bus is an American icon,” he said. “Parent’s most prized possession is riding the bus everyday and we have to put children’s safety first.”

Hosting events in the community, such as Operation Safe Stop, which seeks to alert motorists that they must stop when they see flashing red lights on a school bus, and setting up booths throughout malls in Nassau County creates more awareness about the organization and school bus safety, Meltzer said. “We want to be more present in the community,” she said. “There are bus drivers out there who care.”

If a vehicle passes a stopped school bus, the driver can give the transportation office the license plate number, if possible, or the district can get in touch with the police department, according to Long Beach School District Transportation Supervisor Robert Sambo. “It’s a very steep violation,” he said. “And the only way to really hit people is through the pockets.”

According to the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, passing a school bus with red flashing lights could total more than a $200 fine for one violation.

In his 31 years at Long Beach School District, Sambo said though new transportation issues have risen, the main one has stayed the same. “We have to make sure we can transport each child safely to and from school,” he said. “But we also monitor bullying situations and train our drivers how to recognize that and report it to administrators. We also always have safe bus stops, equipment and must make sure the programs we provide busing for, such as school trips or athletic games, are done in a safe fashion.”

Sophie Codispodo, a transportation supervisor for the Lawrence School District, said her main concerns are safety and bus routes. “The number of children we have going to non-public schools is increasing as we live in an Orthodox area,” she said. “We try to give them the best service we possibly can but it gets difficult because we have a lot of requests for closer bus stops and kids are scattered across the community. We rely on our drivers to get kids to school as safely as they can.”

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