Posted on June 1, 2021
Categories: Ops Newsletter

The Operations Division oversees a wide variety of work to maintain and improve the 326 buildings that support the students and staff in our School District. Led by Chief Operating Officer, Reggie McNeil, the Operations team includes the Offices of Capital Programs, Environmental, Facilities & Maintenance, Food Services, and Transportation.

These teams work collectively to help foster safe and healthy environments for our students and to contribute to the educational process by providing healthy meals daily, and coordinating the safe and efficient travel of students to and from school every day.

To provide a better understanding of each office’s function, every newsletter will introduce you to members from our teams. We hope you will enjoy getting to know them, and some highlights of their most recent work. In this issue, we’ll continue with the Offices of Transportation and Food Services.

The Department of Transportation Services

What Do We Do?

The School District of Philadelphia Department of Transportation Services provides bus transportation services to more than 41,000 students via more than 2,000 routes to and from 255 public schools, 123 charter schools, and more than 440 non-public schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding five counties. The School District of Philadelphia Department of Transportation Services also provides more than 65,000 SEPTA TransPasses to eligible students.

Meet the Broad Street Garage Supervisor

Nadine Miller, Broad Street Garage Supervisor

Nadine Miller has been with the District a little over 11 years. She started out as a bus attendant and continually moved up the department ladder to later become a driver, and then a dispatcher. Currently, she serves as Supervisor at the Broad Street Garage location. Being centrally located, her small fleet of 100 buses enables her team to quickly access all parts of the city.

Nadine is responsible for more than 80 employees, from drivers and dispatchers to mechanics and cleaning staff. Nadine says that each employee plays an important part to contribute to the success of her operation. Despite the challenges of COVID, her drivers have responded to the transportation needs of charter schools, public schools, and athletic teams. She believes exciting changes are happening right now within the Department of Transportation, and she is happy to be part of the team!

Meet the Passyunk Garage Supervisor

Freda Grant, Passyunk Garage Supervisor

Freda Grant has been with the School District of Philadelphia for 16 years. She started out as a part time bus driver, and later became an acting dispatcher. After completing her duties as a dispatcher, she was promoted to be an acting street supervisor. Freda says working for the District, and raising three of her children who rode the school bus to get to school prepared her for the role she is in today.

Freda currently serves as the Passyunk Garage Supervisor. As a supervisor, her responsibilities include overseeing the building, facilities, and equipment at the Passyunk Garage. She is required to assign buses and equipment to fit the necessary accommodations needed by the students the District transports. She manages two dispatchers, one mechanic foreman, five mechanics, and 88 bus drivers. She enjoys being able to effectively communicate with staff, faculty, and parents. Freda says her favorite part about her work is that she is able to help children, with the trust of their caretakers, safely and properly get to their destinations.

Meet the Shallcross Garage Supervisor

Krystal Wright-Copper, Shallcross Garage Supervisor

Krystal Wright-Copper has been with the School District of Philadelphia for 11 years. She started out as a driver, and continued her career to become a dispatcher. She currently serves as the Shallcross Garage Supervisor, where she oversees nearly 85 drivers who transport Philadelphia children to and from school everyday. Krystal’s tasks include communicating with staff at more than 20 schools, assisting parents, assigning athletic trips, helping foreman and mechanics with preventative maintenance, and managing bus logs.

Krystal says it is very important to adhere to proper COVID protocols that have been put in place. Her team distributes personal protective equipment (PPE) to all drivers. The team ensures that every bus is sprayed every morning and afternoon with a cleaner that was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Krystal is sure to keep the morale up at the Shallcross garage, to maintain an environment that her team enjoys being in.

We’re Hiring Bus Drivers!

The Garage Operations team is actively recruiting bus chauffeurs and are hosting in-person job fairs on three upcoming Wednesdays, May 26, June 9, and June 16, 2021. They are also hosting a virtual information session on Tuesday, June 1. Applicants will receive informative information about the processes to become a bus chauffeur, and the free Commercial Drivers’s License (CDL) training offered from Transportation Services Training Instructors at these events. Click here to view the job posting and job description.

SEPTA Fare Card

Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, School District of Philadelphia students will no longer use weekly Transpasses. Students in grades 5 through 12 who are eligible to board a SEPTA trolley, bus or subway will use the new, contact-free chipped SEPTA Student Fare Card.

The Student Fare Card can be used throughout the school year, as long as the student remains enrolled and eligible for free transportation services. SEPTA Student Fare Cards will be valid for travel to and from school with a limit of up to 8 taps per day. SEPTA Student Key Cards will be active for each designated school day, Monday through Friday, from the hours of 5:30am to 8:00pm.

You can see more information about the program on the website.

The Office of Food Services

What Do We Do?

Food Services’ mission is to provide nutritious, appealing, and cost-effective meals for students in safe and pleasant cafeterias. During the pandemic, the entire team of 875 cafeteria staff and 20 central office staff have pivoted to provide District students with nutritious meals in a grab-and-go style, while students are learning virtually. There are currently 102 Grab-and-Go school pick-up locations, open every Friday from 9-2 pm, including seven drive-thru locations.

Meet the Field Coordinator

Eileen Lewis, Field Coordinator

Eileen joined the School District of Philadelphia in 1998, and has served in various capacities within the Division during her tenure. Her experience, institutional knowledge, and leadership have supported growth and improvement over the years, allowing the Division to better serve students. Eileen leads a team of eleven Field Supervisors, and together, they bring over 250 combined years of industry experience.

Meet the Field Supervisors

Top Tier (left to right) Lawanda Spratley, DeWayne Smith, Bernadette Dearing, Kevin Casey, Karen Albert, and John Sparacino Bottom Tier (left to right): Stacy Smith, Sherri Coates, Frank Vizard, Robert Higgins, and Jermaine Smith

The Food Service Field Supervisors play an integral role in the successful operation of the Division. Their oversight and leadership evolve central office thoughts and ideas into everyday practice in the field. In addition, these supervisors have helped take the Division to the next level throughout their years of service, embracing change and supporting growth and progress. In celebration of their service, let’s look at a few of the changes this group has faced, and appreciate how far we’ve come.

From Tickets and Clickers to Technology!

Student meal tickets and clickers became obsolete after 2005 when the Division rolled out a Point of Sale Accounting/Inventory System. Pin pads and scanners helped speed up the flow of students in the cafeteria, and made meal claiming a more straightforward process. Although the enormous shift in operations took time, energy, and patience at all levels of service, in the end, the improvement was worth it.

Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and Meal Requirement Changes

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act introduced several new guidelines to assist school children in obtaining the nutrition they needed for healthy growth and development. Offering wholesome meals to the students wasn’t new to the Division, but meeting the regulations included with the improved nutrition standards was no easy feat. For the first time in more than fifteen years, over 800 foodservice employees needed to make significant changes to how they served our students. Our Field Supervisors took the lead on ensuring these new stringent standards were implemented in the field.

Community Eligibility Provision

Implementation of the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) in the 2014-15 SY allowed all students in Philadelphia to receive breakfast, lunch, and after-school meals at no charge, regardless of family income. This welcome change not only ensured all students had access to healthy meals, but also eliminated the administrative burden of collecting paper applications and money during meal service.


Next Month: We will highlight work from the Office of Facilities and Management Services.