To an old English teacher, Maintenance and Operations looks like a vague and intimidating title. Truthfully, when I went in to chat with the eight men who comprise that department for Madisonville Consolidated Independent School District, I was fairly ignorant as to the extent of their contributions to the everyday success of the district.
Madisonville native Frank Kelly wears the title Maintenance Coordinator. He has been in the department for seven years, and Superintendent Keith Smith says of Kelly, “He is one of the best hires I ever made. He has done a wonderful job and has a deep sense of commitment.”
In turn, Kelly is quick to give credit and praise to the seven maintenance technicians who round out the department:
With a strong personal background in construction, the leader of Maintenance and Operations is particularly proud of the various and practical talents of his men. “ We can and have built a number of buildings from the ground up. This department includes plumbers, two certified electricians, technology experts, mechanics, an irrigation specialist, and two HVAC certificate holders. Having this know-how readily available saves the district time and money.”
Five members of the department attended Madisonville schools, and several had former careers in the city. They have brought experience and training from the gravel industry, the Houston Fire Department, chemical plants, and heavy equipment operations to their current positions.
Growth of enrollment in local schools ensures an ever-evolving list of fundamental chores. For one thing, the administration sets high standards for grounds care on the four campuses and athletic facilities, and beyond that, there are 250 acres to be maintained to some level. More direct to the curriculum, copy paper is a necessary classroom staple, so 20 cases of paper is delivered to each campus every two weeks. Necessarily high on the priorities list are roughly 300 toilets and urinals which must be kept operational, and the campus kitchens must be functional every day.
These chores may be seem mundane, but occasionally an emergency arises to call a different level of operations into play. Recently, the city had turned off water to the school. During that time, a mop sink faucet was left on at one of the campuses (No water was flowing at the time, so the individual simply forgot to turn it off.)
The next morning, the first people to arrive at the school were met by a river of water rushing down the hall and into the library. The call went out for was all maintenance hands on deck, and at the site, they were assisted by librarians, administrators, custodians, and teachers. Amazingly, a full-fledged disaster was averted; the library was protected, no walls or flooring were ruined, and classes began as usual.
One of the maintenance techs commented, “We do what we can to keep everything running smooth.” When students are arriving for the day and the hallway is flooding, “running smooth” requires quick thinking and coordinated action.
And that is a point about this group. Although each is loosely assigned a campus or an area of operations, everyone is very willing to lend a hand anywhere for the good of the entire district. “Everybody pitches in to help each other,” is an idea I heard several times during the interview. Hearing their banter and watching them laugh together, it is apparent that these eight employees are more of a team than a department.
Jody Lima and James Holiday have the most experience, 22 years, of the group. Surprisingly, the department already had six members when they were hired, and the schools have experienced huge growth since then. Working smarter and utilizing the talents of personnel must surely explain how a department of only eight can be so efficient in serving an ever-expanding venue.
Partial payoff for all this effort is the positive reaction of the local public, as well as of out-of-town visitors. Compliments on the district’s manicured grounds and on the cleanliness of the schools are common.
As the Maintenance Coordinator said, “These guys have great buy-in. They are motivated to keep the district looking good and operating well, and they take responsibility for doing that.”