The History of the School Transportation Association of Indiana

(by Jim Scroggin)

In the year of 1974, I was 12 years old, a 6th grader at Central Elementary School in Southeastern Jefferson County, Indiana. I rode the bus to school daily, 20 miles to school and 20 miles home. My conveyance was bus 22, driven by Tommy Griffith. My driver was the captain of this ship. When he turned the radio off, an immediate silence fell on our bus, otherwise, we could expect an immediate visit from this driver. That is partly the beginning of my history with school transportation.

In the same year, 1974, an organization was being formed. The founder, Richard Pea, invited and organized directors from across the state to a meeting in mid-February to discuss the issues of school transportation. This meeting was held in Brown County, specifically the small town of Nashville, Indiana, where this conference remained for the next 7 or so years. The group developed an award to honor lifetime achievement for pupil transportation and it also honored its founder, what we now know as the Richard Pea award.

Richard Pea ran all aspects of the fledgling organization during those early years. He, also, served as chairman of the state school bus committee. The Association was, for the most part, a state-run organization with little, or no input from its school directors. In 1980, Richard hired a new state director, one Pete Baxter, who would go forward and greatly impact this association for many years to come. Shortly after hiring Mr. Baxter in 1980, Richard Pea was diagnosed with cancer. He succumbed to this dreadful disease in 1981.

After the death of Richard Pea, the organization would undergo a transition. Members no longer wished to remain a state-controlled association and began the election of state board members and officers. This enabled them to have greater control of the association’s affairs. In 1982, the conference was moved to Vincennes, Indiana, at the Executive Inn where it remained for several years. The time of year changed as well, to mid-March, as the board felt that better weather might boost attendance versus a winter setting.

Again, the Association and its board felt it was time for transition. They opted to move the conference to a more central location. The move was to Indianapolis’s west side. The conference was held at the Adam’s Mark hotel. By now, the conference had grown and the organization was no longer just a social event. It became more substantial in its vision to educate its membership throughout the entire year.

Inclusion became a central focus for STAI in those years. No longer would the association be solely for directors; rather it was determined that members should include school bus drivers, attendants, mechanics, and office staff members. The Board developed competitions and committees to benefit and educate all in the school transportation community.