The man behind the bus fleet

The man behind the bus fleet

Emily Franke


Last year around this time, as senior Alex Parks listed EEE Internships on his course request form, he planned to look for a position to gain experience in the field of human resources. Parks said it is hard to work in human resources as a high schooler without credentials or a degree. To meet Parks’ needs, EEE teacher Kathryn Fishman-Weaver said she reached out to a long-time family friend, Columbia Public Schools Transportation Coordinator Blake Tekotte.
“I really like the idea of whenever we have a student interested in something and we can meet that student’s need in house, so we try to come up with a CPS contact,” Weaver said. “As I was going through in my head what makes sense, I thought of Mr. Tekotte, so I reached out to him. … Transportation had never taken an intern before, and so they were willing to give it a try.”
While working with Tekotte, Parks faced issues of confidentiality. As a CPS student, Parks was not allowed access to information about the students benefiting from the district’s transportation system, Tekotte said. Additionally, Parks said at first Tekotte didn’t quite know what Parks could do for his hours.
“In my 10-plus years as Transportation Director, Alex was my first intern,” Tekotte said. “I did enjoy Alex coming out for a couple hours per week. … We did find some areas in which Alex could help me. He also was helping troubleshoot the electronic fueling system before the end of the first semester arrived.”
After a few days on the job filing, Alex started working with a computer program called FuelMaster. Tekotte said the records Alex organized using Fuel Master provide a paper trail for various transportation activities that are always changing and growing, and those records then allow Tekotte to look back and find concrete proof should questions or concerns arise over the activities.
“Fuelers for buses … insert this key into a machine that keeps track of how many miles a bus drives and how much gas it gets,” Parks said. From “where that is taken in it is downloaded to a program onto a computer in the office and I kept track of that data, of miles and gas amounts that were fuelled [and] I just collected reports and I would give it to my sponsor.”
Even though he enjoyed working with Tekotte, Parks decided to switch internships at semester to continue his exploration of human resources. He talked to Weaver and she helped him set up an interview with Institute for People, Place and Possibility (IP3), a company that writes content, manages user training and support, conducts social media and designs campaign materials, “all focused on improving public health,” according to MUServes.
“A woman had outreached to all of the EEE teachers last semester. She runs a company [that runs] a database for public health researchers, and she’d said that she was open to taking high school interns,” Weaver said. “They’re a relatively new company, so they have a lot of [business related] things to think about such as PR, website, interfacing with clients, and so all of these skills are really transferable to anyone interested in business or HR.”
While Tekotte said he’s not sure CPS Transportation relates to the HR field, Parks viewed the work as “human resources for students that go to every public school in Columbia.” Initially Parks did not have any interest in the busing system, but he realized the experience could still be beneficial.
“Besides that experience and what you learn, you also build a relationship, and I’m still in contact with my sponsor, and he wants to know my post secondary plans after school, where I want to go, what I want to study,” Parks said. Building this relationship “can be really helpful for your future, like maybe you need a letter of recommendation or if you just need help on some issue regarding employment or something.”
By Emily Franke