Q&A with Santa Maria-Bonita School District

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District is located in the heart of California’s coastal agricultural area. The elementary district serves nearly 17,000 students attending 16 elementary schools and four junior high schools.

What problems, issues, or needs led you to engage Student Transportation of America (STA)?
For many years our district contracted with the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District to transport our regular education students and we operated our own small fleet of special education vehicles. We also have about 125 homeless students who frequently move from hotel to hotel and between the homes of relatives. Busing these students back to their home schools creates some unique routing challenges. As our student population increased we needed to make enhancements to our transportation system, so we turned to STA and have been with them since the late 1990s.

What have the implementation phase and ongoing relationship been like?
There are always a couple of rough spots in the beginning of each school year, but STA always works those out smoothly and efficiently within the first week or two. In a couple of cases, we had school boundary changes and last- minute schedule changes that required STA to realign a number of routes and add others. In every case, the STA team got things on track very quickly. When the unexpected happens, we can count on STA to do everything possible to make it work.

My relationship with STA is great. STA people make the difference. Even when we have last-minute changes, we can count on them to make it work for our students. They are especially good about accommodating the needs of our displaced students and often are able to make the necessary changes by the next day. The STA team is always friendly and helpful.

What have been the greatest benefits of working with STA?
The greatest benefit to working with STA is their staff. They are wonderful and very accommodating. I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with the service we receive from STA and the Santa Maria staff. I know I don’t see them very often, but I do appreciate all they do and consider myself lucky they are doing this most important job.

Can you share specifically how STA helped you reach your goals?
STA helps me reach my goals every year by continuing to work with me to make sure my students arrive to school safely and on-time.

How is STA aligned with the values that drive your school district?
STA, like my district, is dedicated to doing its part to afford our students the best opportunity to succeed. Like a network of gears, if one is out of alignment the whole thing starts to shake and fall apart. The STA team continually holds up its end of the bargain. Driving a bus with 70 kids behind you is a tough job. Our schools promote respect and responsibility and STA team members reflect those values in the way they do their jobs and how they treat our kids.

How has working with STA made your job/work life easier?
STA transports my students day in and day out. The professional way they operate and the way they treat my students makes my job tremendously easier. I rarely have to deal with transportation issues, which takes a big chunk off my plate. I simply pass along requests for busing changes and STA makes it happen. It’s like magic, especially considering the many changes and rerouting required for our homeless students.

What surprised you or pleased you most about working with STA?
When I took this position about three years ago I was pleasantly surprised to see how effortless they make their jobs look. We are fortunate to have these people working for us. We just extended our initial contract for another five-year term and I look forward to another five years of this great partnership.

Would you recommend STA to others? What positive benefits would you emphasize?
I would recommend STA to anyone. Like I have said many times, it is the STA people who make the operation great. Anyone can buy buses and transport kids, but the STA people here in Santa Maria bend over backwards to do whatever we need.

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