Kristin Lewis joined Student Transportation of America (STA) in January as the new Vice President of Product. She previously worked for Equifax, where she led the creation, design, launch and marketing for several technology products. At STA, she’s focused on the SafeStop app and its innovations throughout 2019 and beyond. Lewis spoke with us recently about her vision for the future.

Q: What do you do as Vice President of Product?
A: SafeStop is our Number 1 priority in terms of delivering an optimal experience to schools and parents who use it to make sure their kids get safely to and from school each and every day. We’ve seen an incredible level of continued adoption, and I’ve come on board to make sure the roadmap and product are scaling and that innovation will meet that pace of demand.

Q: What are your plans for the remainder of the fiscal year?
A: When I joined in January, I thought it would be important to spend the first 90 days in “listen mode,” spending time not only with customers but with parents who use the app. I’m a parent, so I’m thinking about what we need to do to serve all of the stakeholder groups who use the platform. For the remainder of the fiscal year, we’ll be translating what we’re hearing into the roadmap for SafeStop 3.0, which is the latest and greatest version of the app that will be available for the upcoming school year. We’ve been hearing great feedback from the school districts and parent communities, and we’re learning what would make it easier for schools to communicate what they need and for parents to have the visibility they need to pick their kids up and drop them off on-time.

Q: What are some of those updates, and how does that fit with your vision for the future?
A: There are three main areas. What we’re hearing from the schools and transportation staff is that due to the driver shortage and the nature of school transportation logistics that must occur in a given day, their time is incredibly precious. They want to provide communications to parents that are meaningful, but when they’re struggling to figure out the best ways to cover bus routes that are short by a driver, communication can fall through the cracks. SafeStop can be there to give parents that visibility, and one of our focus areas for the future is how innovative techniques such as AI or machine learning can help us understand trends and automate communication for schools so parents get the information they need without requiring so much input from the transportation staff. Their focus should be on making sure kids are being picked up and dropped off safely and on-time.

Another big aspect we’re hearing about — and are in a good position to address — is driver engagement. We’ve received great parent feedback that drivers make a big impact on their kids in special ways, such as remembering birthdays or wearing costumes on holidays. We want to facilitate more of that feedback through the app by allowing parents to interact and leave notes, which would support driver recognition, engagement and retention.

From the parents, we’re also hearing about their focus on safety and knowing exactly where their kid is, not having to wait in the cold too long, and making sure the bus arrived at school on-time without any accidents. We’re trying to understand the ideal role that SafeStop plays in that and how we can add more value to parents, especially for those who share a common thread and have students on the same vehicle. For example, if a student leaves an item on the bus, it would be great to be able to check in with other parents or communicate that it was moved to the school’s lost and found. We want to create opportunities for people to connect when they don’t have that communication channel anywhere else.

Want to learn more about what SafeStop is doing to connect school communities, or to see a demo of the app in action?