WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – New technology and apps on our phones are supposed to make our life easier and in most cases they do. But sometimes you have to work out the bugs.
If you’ll remember, that’s what happened in Seminole County the first day of school. But the team at the Seminole County Public Schools Transportation Services worked through it, and because of that, were nominated for this week’s News 6 Getting Results Award.
This summer, Seminole County Public Schools introduced the Traversa Ride 360 system for the 2022-23 school year. The website and mobile app allows families and students to look up bus route information and receive real-time notifications and alerts.
Or at least that’s the way it was supposed to work. Stan Mckinzie, the district’s director of transportation, said it didn’t start out that way.
“There were a lot of phone calls that first day,” McKinzie recalled. “A lot of calls.”
McKinzie has worked in the transportation division for more than 20 years, working his way up from driver. His good nature and knowledge of the department helped the team handle a difficult situation.
“At the end of the day all you can do is smile,” McKinzie said. “Your glass is either half empty or half full.”
McKinzie said the district had been preparing for the launch for months.
“We had our old system for approximately 20 years, and we switched over to a new system. And with that new system we had a few issues, to say the least,” McKinzie said with a laugh.
He and his team worked overtime the day before school to help the vendor better understand the problems they were hearing from parents. A group of at least 20 employees put in a 20-hour day, working until 1 a.m. They answered parents questions and called others back to explain what was happening. The team returned three hours later as buses rolled out before sunrise for the first day of classes.
“Kids were not showing up on the app, stop locations were incorrect, they were listed as walkers, they were listed as not active in transportation,” McKinzie said.
Chad Wilsky, assistant superintendent of operations, helped explain the bugs they needed to iron out.
“It was frustration for parents and we do apologize,” Wilsky said. “We had assigned our routing system, had our students assigned and their bus stop information, but for whatever reason, the system was not communicating that to parents through the app to the website.”
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Early that morning, calls from parents into the dispatch desk continued, and as McKinzie described it, they wouldn’t stop.
“Every time we put the phone down there was another call,” McKinzie said. “We received over 17,000 calls that first day, but we were able to resolve most of those issues in that one day.”
Turns out it was a communication error in the program that was patched within hours. Many of the issues were resolved by the next day.
Wilsky said there were few incidents aside from the calls.
“Actually, with all that was happening with the app, it actually ended up being a very good day overall in the big picture for a first day,” he said.
McKinzie credits his staff of more than 500 employees for the success.
“They come to work, they want to serve those kids and they want to serve the parents. It makes my job as director so much easier because I have great employees,” he said.
McKinzie and the entire team at transportation services were nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by Seminole County School Board member Kristine Kraus.
“Too often we forget to acknowledge and have gratitude for our employees who are so devoted to our students,” Kraus said. “We’re just very lucky to have such a strong leader for the transportation team.”
News 6 was told the Traversa Ride 360 app is now working as it should and there are plans to release new features in the future.
“At the end of the day, it’s not our job to make excuses,” McKinzie said. “It’s our job to fix the problem.”
Kraus added that there are always “hiccups at the beginning.”
“I’m just proud to say that he was instrumental in getting parents reassured and (getting) our students where they needed to be (safely),” she said.
To submit someone for the Getting Results Award, fill out the form below.