Going Digital: “I’m Trying to Simplify How We’re Doing Things.”
Jason Hibbard joined Chenango Forks Central School District in New York as coordinator of transportation and safety in October 2021 following a 25-year military career. He made the career change in his mid-40s.
But he soon found in his new role that things were done more “old school,” relying on paper and memory.
“He had everything in his head and everything was on paper,” Hibbard said of his predecessor. “I can’t work that way.”
Hibbard, who quickly became a change agent at the school, may be perfect suited for the job. A mechanic by trade, he spent most of his time in the Air Force focused on logistics, moving equipment in and out of countries where multiple operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Syria were occurring. At the National Guard, Hibbard managed the soldiers and maintenance, and dispatched and tracked vehicles.
As a result, he has a good handle on managing the district’s 20 routes which transport some 1,400 students to and from school. Chenango Forks is a mostly rural district situated about 10 miles north of Binghamton
“Because of my background, I do everything differently than it seems like any of my counterparts did,” he said. “I’ve shaken things up, I guess… Nobody likes change at all.”
“It’s the best part of what Transfinder does for me”
Transfinder has been a partner in helping Hibbard implement those changes. He praised Transfinder’s support, technology and the Transfinder Community, a portal filled with resources such as videos, how-to guides, live Chat and a forum where clients can help each other.
“It is the best part of what Transfinder does for me,” Hibbard said. “I mean, anybody can give you a product and a platform but to have the support. If I have a question, if I want to see a better way of doing something, I can go there [Transfinder Community]. To me, that’s customer service.”
Soon after Hibbard became transportation coordinator, the district upgraded from Transfinder’s Routefinder Pro to Routefinder PLUS in 2022, added the parent app Stopfinder and now has an eye toward adding the driver app Wayfinder in the near future.
Before Hibbard came onboard, the district had Tripfinder. While teachers did a great job utilizing the field trip scheduling software, he saw little participation from the sports side of the equation. Hibbard is working to change that and get more buy-in from the coaches needing transportation to games. To get more participation from coaches, he is creating templates for each coach and filling out all general school information included in each trip request, leaving just the date, time and location of each event to be filled in by the coach.
“As a leader, you can sell something better with honey than manure”
“I’m working hard to get Tripfinder implemented for the sports trips,” he said. "The problem is people are resistant to change.” Filling out the forms in advance “helps avoid the complaints that ‘I don’t have time for that.’” It’s something he learned during one of his deployments. “As a leader, you can sell something better with honey than manure.” He is now working to make it easier for coaches to schedule trips on their smartphones.
In addition to simplifying the process for the coaches, he’s also making it easier for his team to approve the requests. The dispatcher can now approve the requests, assign the driver and bus for each trip and share that information with the person making the trip request.
Just like jumping in to improve Tripfinder’s adoption, Hibbard went all in with Routefinder PLUS soon after the district decided to upgrade. About a month after being trained he decided to go all in with PLUS rather working in parallel with the two systems at the same time before fully converting to PLUS.
Asked how PLUS is working for him, Hibbard immediately said: “Amazing! I can route a new student in about three clicks, in no time at all. I can combine routes in five minutes to get everything worked out and my new route where I want it. That’s including moving stops around.”
Hibbard said functions he expected to take two weeks to accomplish take about a day and a half. In the move to PLUS, he cleaned up data in preparation for Stopfinder and Wayfinder, the parent app and driver app, respectively. In one case he found 20 phantom, unused bus stops that should have been deleted.
“That throws my times way out of whack,” he said. “It screwed up so much stuff, it’s not even funny.” With PLUS, he said, “it’s an easy delete.”
He doesn’t knock his predecessors.
“I’m trying to simplify how we’re doing things,” Hibbard said. “There was a reason why we did everything that was done.” But times have changed and Routefinder PLUS is helping the district change too.
Routefinder PLUS playing a leading role
Routefinder PLUS is playing a big role in the transportation’s move to simplifying how certain functions are performed. For example, imbedded in PLUS is Formfinder, which allows users to create their own forms and create templates and fully digitize their operations. In short, Formfinder can help the district eliminate putting everything down on paper, a priority for Hibbard. He plans to use Formfinder for pre- and post-post trip inspections and add a field identifying what type of trip each trip it is, such as: home-to-school, special ed, athletic contest or field trip.
“Now, when I go to do my end-of-year mileage I can sort just those fields and tally my mileage,” he said.
Beyond that, Formfinder is a good tool for archiving parent requests or communications and tracking student behavior, he said. “I’ve got piles of paperwork. With Formfinder, I can attach items to a student record, such as a parent’s permission to allow their child to get off at a friend’s house. I no longer have to search stacks of papers for that parent note.”
Formfinder also allows him to create and attach student conduct reports. “When Mom’s like, ‘I never heard any of this,’ I can show her, ‘Well, it’s right here.’”
His next push is getting greater Stopfinder buy-in. During the district’s summer enrichment program, he had about 140 parents using the parent app but really just 20 parents were actively using the app.
“I’d like to see more,” he said. “Overall, I think it’s phenomenal. People have really appreciated that they have their children’s schedule at their fingertips.”
He’s looking forward to one day implementing Wayfinder that will help when having substitute drivers fill in for those regular drivers who know their routes like the back of their hands. Wayfinder will provide turn-by-turn navigation, information on each child at each stop and even allow drivers to take attendance.
It’s all part of his push to go digital.
“I’m of the mentality I want to go digital more than paper and I’m trying to get away from duplicating and triplicating stuff,” Hibbard said. “If I can just put it all into the program, it’s so much easier.”