Maintaining the Pride

June 1, 1998
Today's school facilities manager must respond to many different needs each day, often performing a different role for each problem presented. Not only

Today's school facilities manager must respond to many different needs each day, often performing a different role for each problem presented. Not only must he or she manage the daily operations ofall schools in the district, but also this person must be available to the community. This is becoming more of a challenge as budgets are limited, demands are increasing and resources to get the job done are more scarce.

Therefore, when the judges began reviewing applicants for the 3rd annual National School Plant Manager of the Year award, they paid particular attention to facilities managers that had been with a district for many years; were involved in the community; supported local, state and national plant-management associations; and played the role of ambassador in representing the industry.

The winner, along with three honorable mentions, was announced at the National School Plant Management Association (NSPMA) annual meeting and convention in Oklahoma City, Okla., in April. The winner was presented with a $1,000 donation for continuing education, and all received an award honoring their accomplishments.

NATIONAL SCHOOL PLANT MANAGER OF THE YEAR James A. Vicar Director of Maintenance Beaufort County School District Beaufort, S.C.

With 16,000 students and 2.5 million square feet of facilities, James Vicar understands commitment. For more than 23 years, he has served the county and the Beaufort County School District through community service and a never-ending dedication to serving the students.

With an operational budget of approximately $6.5 million, Vicar supervises 80 employees responsible for every aspect of facilities and grounds maintenance. The district is spread out over a 65-mile area, with one school located on an island, which is accessible only by boat.

vey the positive effect that Ed Higdon has had on facilities-management programs in my district and the Commonwealth of Kentucky," says Charles Rector, director of facilities, Warren County Public Schools, Bowling Green, Ky. "Leadership is an indefinable quality that most often is affected when one leads by example. Through his keen intellect, innovation, high sense of morals, background and training, he has positively affected an entire state."

In addition to serving his district, Higdon has served the industry, including serving as vice president, president-elect and president of the Kentucky School Plant Managers Association. He is a member of NSPMA, Kentucky Exemplary Maintenance Award Team, Daviess County Public Schools Budget Committee, and Daviess County Public Schools Facilities Planning Committee.

"Higdon possesses superior knowledge, dedication and a willingness to share his expertise with others," says Jonathan Williams, maintenance and custodial manager, Henderson County Schools, Ky.

HONORABLE MENTION Don Lombardi Director of Buildings and Grounds Hackensack Public Schools Hackensack, N.J.

With a nearly $4 million annual operations and maintenance budget, Don Lombardi manages a staff of 50. The custodial, maintenance and grounds-keeping staff, under his direction, is responsible for a six-building district covering 700,000 square feet and serving 4,300 students.

During his nine years with the district, Lombardi has instituted a quality-control checklist, which is used by school principals and head custodians. The checklist rates cleanliness and appearance, as well as facility and equipment operating efficiency. A monthly building-evaluation checklist, which rates the condition of the building, was implemented to keep the superintendent and business administrator informed. Completed checklists are used to generate work orders for repairs and service.

Outside of his district, Lombardi was instrumental in introducing legislation that would require all public-school supervisors of buildings and grounds to hold a certified educational facility manager certification. He also is a member of the New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association (NJSBGA) and has served as secretary, vice president and president of one chapter, and served on the executive board. He is a member of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials and Governmental Purchasing Association of New Jersey.

As part of his commitment to NJSBGA members, he created an Outstanding Performance Award to recognize the exceptional service or significant accomplishments of custodial and maintenance personnel. Also, to emphasize the importance of continuing education, he established a scholarship program for regular members to help pay for seminars, workshops and conferences.

"Don is an outstanding leader in our New Jersey Buildings and Grounds Association," says Kevin Dunne, president of the Bergen & Passaic chapter of NJBGA. "His knowledge and expertise have proven invaluable to our association."

HONORABLE MENTION John Anthony (Tony) Sloan Director of Building Services Columbia Public Schools Columbia, Mo.

With a staff of 150 maintenance and custodial personnel to cover more than 500 acres of grounds and more than 2 million square feet of permanent building space--as well as 121,000 square feet of space in 120 temporary classrooms--Tony Sloan manages building services for 15,300 students in 26 different locations on a budget of $7.5 million.

During his more than 12 years with the district, Sloan has initiated several efforts that have resulted in the district receiving monetary grants to landscape new sites and modernize lighting, the latter resulting in energy conservation and improved environments. A $250,000 grant for modernization of temperature controls resulted in more energy savings for the district.

Through his hard work, persons from 40 school districts throughout Missouri met and formed the Missouri School Plant Managers Association, of which he served as president for two years. He also has been very active in the Southern School Plant Management Association (SSPMA), serving as vice president, president elect and president. He was instrumental in moving SSPMA to change its focus, thus becoming NSPMA.

During the last decade, the school district has received recognition as one of the nation's outstanding school districts. The district was named a Model School and received a Presidential visitation along with the honor. In 1993, Sloan was awarded the Outstanding Administrator of the Year award for the district.

"Tony has tremendous skills in empowering group members to take on tasks and responsibilities that otherwise might not be undertaken," says Patrick Houlahan, director, operations and facilities, Francis Howell School District, St. Charles, Mo. "He is tremendous at consensus building, conflict resolution and problem solving."

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