2015 Grey Owl Award Recipient

2015 Grey Owl AwardHenry Claeys, Transportation Supervisor of the Winnipeg School Division is the 2015 recipient of the Grey Owl Award. This award recognizes outstanding practices and new ideas that result in significant contributions to Manitoba School Divisions and the profession of school business officials.

There are over 2300 students transported daily in the Winnipeg School Division, some 820 of whom require special education services or medical considerations. Having experienced the value of an elaborate bus communication system when he was the Chief Inspector at the Winnipeg Transit System, Henry could see how parents and schools in the Winnipeg School Division would benefit from enhanced communication systems and processes.

Henry began exploring various applications and routing systems specifically designed for school divisions. Enlisting the collaboration of the Information Systems staff and the purchasing department, a Request for Proposals was conducted and a routing system was selected. The system was installed and integration with the Division’s student database system ensued. The integration would result in up-to-date student data and parent/guardian contact information being efficiently loaded to the routing software. The routing software was successfully implemented for the 2011–2012 school year.

Henry worked with the hardware software system vendor to have the necessary components installed on the buses, met with driver/union representatives to discuss the benefits and engage staff, developed schedule for the gradual and systematic implementation of the system, arranged for training, worked with staff to develop an identifiable name for the communication system (MYBUSPASS for the individually assigned student tracking radio frequency tracking cards and MYBUSLINK for accessing route and student status information).

With the refinements and additional features which were introduced through Henry’s leadership, the Division now has a communication system that can provide:

  • Recording of pre-trip inspection reports of buses by drivers on computer tablets and automated reporting to mechanical staff
  • Communication to mechanical staff of bus engine performance while on route to proactively identify potential issues
  • Ability to communicate using tablet messages to drivers (which can only be read/retrieved when the bus has pulled over)
  • Ability for drivers to use tablets as a GPS guide for their specific route which is especially helpful with frequent route changes and in assisting substitute drivers
  • Ability for drivers to access the list of assigned students
  • Tracking of location of buses on their routes to ensure that buses are on schedule and to facilitate staff assistance to drivers on the route and in navigating detours
  • Through MYBUSLINK, the ability for parents or students to determine arrival (tracking) status of the bus to which they are assigned
  • Communication of information on students embarking and disembarking from buses which occurs as students swipe their personally assigned radio-frequency identification card MYBUSPASS. School administration has access to this student information
  • Through SECURELINK, the ability for parents or guardians to obtain information about riding status (i.e., did my child get on the bus or did my child get off the bus)

Henry is also collaborating with teachers of a high school information technology program in the Division to have them develop an app which would provide parents with communication capabilities with SECURELINK from their computers, smart phones or tablets.

If asked by colleagues and peers from other divisions for further details about his innovation project, Henry would probably start by humbly saying that this innovation was a team effort, that it is part of his responsibility, and that his peers in the province are also introducing improvements to the service they are providing. He would then openly share the details of his project.

Henry is married and has two stepsons and four grandchildren. He spent many hours at the community centre coaching soccer and hockey when his stepsons were younger and now enjoys watching his grandsons play. Henry is considered an accomplished gourmet cook by his family and friends and he enjoys going to Jets games and travelling with his wife. Henry’s work ethic and professionalism are of the highest standards and he sets an exemplary example for all the staff within the Transportation Department.

Congratulations Henry on receiving this award!