Now that DriverEd Safety has new online scheduling software, training has taken place, and new processes have been implemented, I got to sit down with the Director of Driver Education, TeLisa Hill to talk a little bit about the program, its changes, what’s coming down the pipeline, and how you—yes YOU—can help improve the quality of Driver Education.
Ms. Hill, thanks for agreeing to sit and chat with me. I know you’ve had a lot going on with Driver Education and changing your systems, while also dealing with the pandemic. I’d like to start by asking a little about your background with CIESC, DriverEd Safety, and how you got to be the director of the largest driving school in Indiana.
How long have you been with CIESC?
I’ve been with CIESC since May 2001. I was finishing my associate’s degree at ITT Technical Institute for Web Development and searching for jobs at the same time. CIESC had a posting for a grant-funded, three-year, Administrative Assistant position. I applied, was hired, and that’s pretty much it.
When you began as an administrative assistant, was the end goal always to be a director? Talk a bit about your journey.
It was not my goal to become the director, actually. I took the three-year administrative position, and I thought that by the time I finished my associates in web development, I would get a job doing that. Well, things changed. I ended up using my web development degree; only I used it here at CIESC to create a website for DriverEd Safety. At that time, all DriverEd Safety directors were part-time, and admins were full-time. This opened the door for me to grow and have more responsibility and ownership for the program.
I started meeting company, student, and parent needs when I saw them versus having to be told to take action. By that time, I had become a program coordinator in a two-person department with occasional summer help. From there, I rediscovered my niche in business and went back to school for my bachelor’s in business management—what I had already begun doing with Driver Education. I became the Director of Driver Education in 2016.
What would you say sets DriverEd Safety apart from other driving schools in the state?
Personable connection: A good chunk of our instructors are educators or former educators. Most of them teach at the school they instruct from as well. This helps with both student and parent being comfortable with the one-on-one lessons.
Employee Innovative Minds: From changing the URL length, so it’s easier to type/remember, to automating certain correspondence from office to the student, and even sending a survey at the completion of driver education to get honest feedback.
Calendar Autonomy: The last thing would probably be the flexibility the instructors have with their schedules and the fact that they have full autonomy over their calendars. This helps us service those with sports schedules, choir schedules, custody arrangements, and anything else that may interfere.
Let’s talk about the extensive wait list you have. How does it work?
I’ve wrestled with this one. I don’t believe anybody likes having a waitlist, but I do believe any driver education school will work with a running waiting list. I’ve contemplated cutting off registration at a certain location or stopping registrations altogether, but the truth is, we can’t. There is a need for us in the city, and I believe we are the best people and program to service their needs. Sure! It may take a little longer, but excellence always does.
How do you effectively manage your fleet of vehicles?
Being the largest driving school comes with its perks, but it also comes with its challenges—fleet management being one of them. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re able to utilize a fleet management partnership, and that helps tremendously. It helps me keep track of which cars need to be serviced or need new tires, and it helps track the mileage on each. With this, I can send reminders to each instructor to stop by to get their oil changed, tires rotated, transmission flushed, etc.
What impact on the students/community do you hope DriverEd Safety will have?
We do a great job helping students and parents—from obtaining a learner’s permit to obtaining a driver’s license—but there is still work to be done. Not only are we helping these students learn to drive, but our instructors are also helping these kids gain confidence in decision making, increasing confidence behind the wheel, and introducing them to a small piece of the independence that comes with driving and obtaining a driver’s license. We serve as a resource for those who may not use CIESC but have questions about licenses, but can’t get a hold of anyone at the BMV.
In your opinion, what’s next for DriverEd Safety? What direction would you like to see it go?
I think everyone would likely answer this question by saying expansion, but not me so much. I’d like to see the quality of DE continue to develop. With the new software implemented, it’s helped us be even more transparent with our students/parents—but there is still work to do. At the suggestion of our insurance company, we’ve added audio/visual equipment in every car. This continues to allow us to be open and honest with our parents, and, in case of an incident, we can watch and listen to the video.
I would like to see students and parents be able to navigate the program with confidence. We’re seeing an increased need in student drivers and adult drivers who need/want more than the 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Maybe the next step is to create a package that does that. There is a shortage of bus drivers and commercially licensed drivers. Maybe, the next step is for CIESC to take action in this realm. Most importantly, the next step is to continue to serve the students, parents, and community. We are an educational services center, first.
In 2021 we serviced more than 5,000 students in the midst of a pandemic. We don’t take this lightly. We want to continue to serve a high volume of students. What’s next for Driver Education is increasing our presence in the school systems. Increase our partnerships with local and national businesses to help sponsor those who may find it challenging to afford driver education.
DriverEd Safety has made an impact and continues to make an impact around central Indiana. In addition to Ms. Hills’ testimonial, I reached out to a few parents to see how they felt about the program.