New director steers transportation towards technology

Bus+driver+Robin+Rodriguez+waits+in+the+parking+lot+for+her+students+so+that+she+can+take+them+home+on+Jan.+19.+Robin+Rodriguez+is+one+of+303+staff+members+of+the+transportation+department.+Photo+by+John+Yun.
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New director steers transportation towards technology

Bus driver Robin Rodriguez waits in the parking lot for her students so that she can take them home on Jan. 19. Robin Rodriguez is one of 303 staff members of the transportation department. Photo by John Yun.

Bus driver Robin Rodriguez waits in the parking lot for her students so that she can take them home on Jan. 19. Robin Rodriguez is one of 303 staff members of the transportation department. Photo by John Yun.

Bus driver Robin Rodriguez waits in the parking lot for her students so that she can take them home on Jan. 19. Robin Rodriguez is one of 303 staff members of the transportation department. Photo by John Yun.

Bus driver Robin Rodriguez waits in the parking lot for her students so that she can take them home on Jan. 19. Robin Rodriguez is one of 303 staff members of the transportation department. Photo by John Yun.

John Yun, Reporter

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Zach McKinney replaced former transportation director Jim White, who retired on January 1 after serving the district for fourteen years. McKinney began his career as a teacher and transitioned into a central office position in his former district. His duties included writing grants and also maintaining transportation.

“I saw all the positive things going on here at HSE and thought, ‘You know what, this would be a great place to come work and continue my career,’” McKinney said.

McKinney plans to equip all the buses with GPS systems. His greatest goal is to incorporate technology into transportation so that he is able to know where students got on and off the bus.

“People Ridership is what we are going towards,” McKinney said. “Basically, a student would scan their ID badge on their bus, and it would check you on the bus. A student would also scan as they got off, so we would know that you got off at the right stop. So, if a student got off at the wrong stop, then we would quickly know where they are.”

Before replacing White, McKinney worked closely with him from last July to December and was able to have a smooth transition into his new position by “shadowing” White during the beginning of last semester as he became acquainted with the position.

“I’m coming into it at 303 buses and 22,000 students, so it was very beneficial for me to work with White and talk with him,” McKinney said. “When I had a question, he was there to answer it, so it was a really good transition for us.”

When it comes to delays and school cancellations, there is a lot of planning. McKinney starts driving at around four in the morning checking the road. Other people in the transportation department also assist McKinney by inspecting specific areas and ensuring that everything is safe.

“At the end of the day, the safety of the students’ is what it’s really about,” McKinney said. “We want to make sure that we can get the buses on the roads safely, that we can pick up the students safely, and that we can take them to school and back home safely.”

McKinney still interacts with students since he drives a bus each morning and afternoon. He said that there are many people in the transportation department from a multitude of different career paths that are working for HSE.

“I think what is fun about this field, in particular, is that everything is changing,” McKinney said. “There are always new ways to deliver the students home, and new technology is coming out. Every day, I learn something new, so it’s ever-changing.”