Long ago, interviewing a veteran superintendent for a last-day-of-school article, I asked him if after a hectic year, he was looking forward to the break that summer recess provides.
He narrowed his eyes and shot me his most withering glare as if I had accused him of planning to plop his feet on his desk and spend the next several weeks twiddling his thumbs.
"There’s no break," he snapped. "The summer is my busiest time."
The superintendent’s irritated response told me I wasn’t the first one to incur his wrath for being clueless about his summertime activities. But, the reality is that once students and teachers head out the door for summer vacation, not too many people are thinking about who has stayed behind and what they are doing.
While others bask in their leisure time, administrators and other school employees are doing the things that either didn’t get done or couldn’t get done while classes were in session: finalizing budgets; hiring and redeploying staff to keep up with the moving target of student enrollment projections; ordering and distributing supplies and materials for the coming school year; and completing facilities construction, improvement and major maintenance projects.
Those are the kinds of jobs that students and parents will notice only when they don’t get done. That’s why, for education administrators feeling unappreciated during the summer, facility upgrades and retrofits are the perfect pursuit. They provide tangible, three-dimensional examples to show that administrators and building managers have completed their back-to-school assignment: "What We Did on Your Summer Vacation."
When schools and universities make facility improvements, even seemingly minor ones, people will notice. I certainly was grateful when I saw how much easier it was to drop my son off at his elementary school after two parking lots were reconfigured last summer and eased the bottlenecks that formed every morning and afternoon.
For the countless administrators out there sweating the details of this summer’s improvement projects and fretting whether they’ll get finished before students and teachers return, take heart in the knowledge that many people appreciate your efforts.
And once everybody is back in the classroom in August or September, remember: There’s no break in the fall, either.
Kennedy is staff writer for AS&U.