Maintenance & Operations

Excellence in Operation, Leadership

Operation Leadership


A new school year is upon us, and as school divisions around the country prepare for teachers and students to return, summer planning has been essential for a positive start to a new school year. School plant managers have worked their summer projects and are now ready to provide an environment that is conducive for student achievement.

There are many strategic pieces that should be put in place to ensure excellence continues to be a theme in our school divisions. Having a fervent vision to support academics and the learning environment is essential for a holistic approach in education. There are several decisions that must be well thought out by leadership in the beginning to ensure the best end results.

There has to be a clearly stated mission and a focused vision for those that work in and maintain the schools. There has to be measurable objectives leading to sustainable goals for each maintenance shop. These objectives and goals provide a day to day focus on what the expectations are for performance, safety and any other matters that the plant leadership will need to focus on. Being productive and completing work goes a long way in the schools. Also having concrete guidelines for consistency of work standards gives those staff members some direction. It has to be more than just coming to work and completing work orders.

Communication has to be another important factor in measuring success. Having consistent team meetings with the leadership provides the managers or leadsman with job and performance expectations. Leadership can use this time to give support, reinforce work principles and to question and probe about general and specific issues in the maintenance environment. Communication is a two way street. Giving your managers the comfort and ability to also direct the conversation is an excellent way for those managing to express their ideas. This is such a positive way to help your managers or leads feel part of the team and to feel confident to express their opinions and ideas.

Create a clear plan for worker and team safety. Start the newyear fresh by revising day to day safety principles. Review your safety plan for blood-borne pathogens, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, and material safety data sheet guidelines with staff. Personal protection and equipment is also essential in providing appropriate worker safety. Technicians should have the proper gloves, eyes and ear protection, and the proper uniforms to protect from electrical shock. Staff training and education should be planned each year and should include electrical and general safety training.

Encourage your staff to get involved in the state and national school plant management associations. Staff should be encouraged to never stop learning or researching new ways to be efficient. Lifelong learning should be encouraged and practiced.

Money strapped school divisions often rely on their support staff to find ways to save money. A new school year allows operational staff to promote new energy and excitement about energy initiatives, as ways to save money as well. Energy teams in schools allow students and staff to be cognizant of their environment. It is beneficial to have plans to monitor lighting and utility bills. This places ownership back to each school. Student awareness can be very powerful and giving the students and staff the power to initiate change can be rewarding. Schools divisions are encouraged to have competitions to see who can save the most in their schools. Those schools then should be publicly recognized for their initiatives for sustainability and conservation.

A positive and forward thinking leader begins a plan with the end in mind. Don’t be afraid to tackle tough challenges. Always keep the students and staff at every school in the forefront of your decision making. The environment we provide for children encourages the magic that can be created in the classroom. It is never too late to be that dynamic and creative leader that is not afraid to step outside of the box. Failure may occur, but the inability to try can be deemed as even more of a failure than the attempt. Our students and staff are worth whatever it takes.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

John A. Bailey, Ph.D. is the director of School Plants for Chesapeake Public Schools and a National School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Virginia, and a Virginia School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Region II, in Virginia.