Boulder Valley School District

Leadership Profile: BVSD’s director of transportation knows what it is like behind the wheel

Tony Skala
Randy Barber

‘I never ask anybody to do something I am not willing to do myself’

BVSD’s director of transportation knows what it is like behind the wheel

While Tony Skala has been the director of transportation for the Boulder Valley School District for four years now, he says he has not forgotten where he started.

“I was a relief driver when I first started here,” Skala recalled. 

After a number of years of working odd jobs in the food industry and construction, including as an assistant manager of a Pizza Hut, a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and a customer service representative for Melody Homes, Skala eventually found his way to BVSD.

“I heard about the job through a friend from church who said, ‘hey, they're always hiring bus drivers.’ So I applied,” Skala said.

About a year and a half later, a job opened up in the routing division. While he loved the work and spent years mapping out the routes our buses take and even developing the software to make the job easier, when the director of transportation position opened four years ago, former transportation director Bob Young encouraged him to apply, so he did.

“So I went for it, and here I am,” Skala said with a laugh.

What he couldn’t have known was how rough the road ahead would be. Over the past four years, Transportation and the district navigated the nationwide staffing shortage, especially in bus drivers, and a global pandemic.

“Boy, it can be extremely stressful at times,” Skala admitted. “We've accomplished a lot, despite the challenges. We're one of the few districts that has been able to largely avoid eliminating services. We have only had to suspend one route in Nederland. That's the worst it's been.”

Skala is quick to mention that it has taken everyone making sacrifices to avoid further route suspensions. In fact, everyone is regularly behind the wheel to keep everything running, at times he finds himself behind the wheel of a bus.

“We've had mechanics driving this year. We've had office staff driving. We just have people stepping up to get kids to school. That's a credit to them,” Skala said. “That is one of my guiding principles. I never ask anybody to do something that I am not willing to do.”

“There have been a few days where we're cutting close,” Skala added. “It's really a credit to the dispatchers, the routers, the trainers, the mechanics, the supervisors and everyone else that has stepped up that we’ve been able to avoid suspending more routes.”

To Skala, Our People Are Our Strength is more than just a motto.

“One of the biggest joys that I like about the job is the people that I get to work with. I see the hard work that they do,” Skala said. “All of us experience challenges in jobs, and they come from a variety of sources, but also have to say that there's also the joys of the job and one of the biggest ones is that I love the team I work with.”

Often it seems like an organization gets the right leader, at just the right moment. That certainly was true in Transportation. 

Skala’s understanding of routing has been crucial as the team has taken a closer look at routes to find necessary efficiencies. For instance, They found that some kids, who were riding the bus, could walk now because of big safety improvements made over the past several years.

He is also grateful to the team for having patience, as he has learned the ropes.

“It's been a good experience and a challenging experience. I'm definitely out of my comfort zone, but that's a good thing because it causes you to grow,” Skala said. “I feel overall, I'm really blessed in this position.”

Speaking of challenges, Transportation is implementing new routing and trip software, which will allow for better tracking of buses and student-riders. He says the goal is to give bus drivers the tools needed to be successful, while solving problems.


Getting to Know Tony

Here are a few more details, so you can get to know our Director of Transportation.

Philosophically speaking
It might be hard to imagine Tony Skala in a tweed jacket, but he had every intention of becoming a philosophy professor, after graduating with a degree in the subject.

“I was going to get my master's degree in philosophy at CU and planned to be a philosophy teacher,” Tony said. 

He however, made the fateful decision to take a course that featured philosopher David Hume. 

“I was starting to read Hume and I was like, ‘you know, I'm really done with this stuff.’ I closed it up and said, ‘nah,’” Tony admitted. 

Still today, he finds himself reading the greats (minus Hume). His favorite is Thomas Aquinas.

A history buff
While at CU Tony also enjoyed his history courses, an interest that continues today. His favorite genre is wartime leaders.

“I've read a lot of good books from World War II and really enjoy them,” Tony said. “You can learn a lot about leadership from history.”

He regularly watches the HBO series Band of Brothers, because of its portrayal of Dick Winters. He also highly recommends A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II about a bond shared by the pilots of German and American planes that crossed paths.

He’s also been fascinated with the Civil War and has found his way to several historic spots, while on vacation, including the home of President Thomas Jefferson and battlegrounds at Lexington, Concord and Gettysburg. 

“Gettysburg was great,” Tony said. “I'd just been reading and studying about Gettysburg before I went there, so it was, like, really real what was going on there, and just thoroughly enjoyed my time just traveling and just seeing the historical sites.”

Weekly coffee date
Every Saturday, Tony and his wife go on a date to their local Ziggi’s coffee shop.

Additionally, he enjoys spending every moment he can with his family and his young grandson. 


 

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