After having served as executive director overseeing facilities support for the University of Southern Colorado and Pueblo (CO) Public School District #60, Ed Smith was recently appointed as director of facilities for the University of Rhode Island system. He currently serves as chair of APPA's K-12 Task Force.
The sense of urgency appears foreboding!
On one hand, reports indicate that nearly $20 billion was pumped into K-12 facilities in the United States during the past year, a record amount. Education construction alone is projected to be over $60 billion by the time the year 2000 arrives. On the other hand, recent reports paint a terrible picture of the condition of K-12 school buildings, revealing that an infrastructure totaling $422 billion is in serious jeopardy.
Several U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) reports published since 1995 indicate that the United States would have to spend in excess of $112 billion simply to repair or upgrade schools "to good condition." About 60 percent of the nation's K-12 schools have at least one major building system in need of extensive overhaul or replacement. Nearly 60 percent have a significant environmental deficiency, and most schools are unprepared to incorporate the technologies of the 21st century. While inadequacies are found everywhere, central city schools stand out. Almost 70 percent of city schools have major deficiencies in their building systems.
Perhaps out of complete frustration, the New York State Supreme Court recently ordered New York City and school officials to uphold their responsibilities and eliminate hazardous school building conditions by the year 2000. New York City's public school facilities, the largest school system in the nation with 1,100 buildings, exemplify conditions faced by thousands of the nation's school districts, that of crumbling buildings.
It all has an ominous tone for higher education facilities managers. Just about a decade ago, the serious erosion of the nation's college and university infrastructure took center stage. Fueled by a joint APPA/NACUBO/Coopers and Lybrand report, The Decaying American Campus: A Ticking Time Bomb, the enormous magnitude of higher education's deferred maintenance challenge quickly emerged, and gained growing national attention throughout the 1990s.
With the attention came the challenge of supporting the growing pressures from college leaders, alumni, and supporters for new buildings (most often without correlating increases of maintenance support,) while still struggling with increasing deferred maintenance pressures. Physical plant staffs seem to lose on both fronts. It hasn't been an easy decade, yet we in education facilities management have nonetheless been instrumental in doing the things vital to protect our institutions' infrastructure.
A growing commitment to Facility Condition
Assessments and Strategic Assessment Modeling have contributed to sensitizing top administrators, trustees, and state legislators of the plight of our campus facilities. The trend in recent years for enhanced support is more positive than ever before.
So, who better than APPA leaders to assist in helping take on the enormous infrastructure challenge faced at K-12 schools? When presented with this issue at the July 1997 meeting in Orlando, Florida, the APPA Board of Directors proudly acknowledged the body of expertise within its organizational structure and created a task force to review any role it may have to help meet the challenge. The charge was simple. See if those who manage K-12 school physical plants could benefit from a more formal relationship with APPA. The APPA staff was well aware of the dual nature of my position, jointly overseeing facilities management for a regional university and a city-wide public school system. It was not surprising that then-President Pieter van der Have asked me to chair and lead a unique task force to fulfill exactly that charge.
The initial task was to identify a number of dedicated people who could effectively oversee such an initiative. In reality, it was a simple task. Over the years, a small, but dedicated group of K-12 facilities leaders have committed themselves to APPA principles and they welcomed this opportunity to contribute. Selecting the task force, including an international representative, was intuitive on my part.
The process also focused on peer organizations that had common interests in supporting America's kids. The Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) was the initial organization to participate. Subsequently, the National School Plant Management Association (NSPMA) and the National Library of Education/Department of Education sponsored National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) have actively participated in the task force activities. Each offers a unique perspective to the task at hand.
Perhaps the element most critical to realizing success for the group is corporate sponsorship. A number of major corporations stepped to the forefront and offered assistance. Most prominent in its commitment was the Milliken Carpet Company of LaGrange, Georgia. Convinced by the fervor of the initial task force meeting, Milliken executives Peter Kirk and Rob Lange generously volunteered to sponsor task force activities through its initial window of opportunity, the 1999 national meeting. In truth, Milliken's commitment ensures that the task force will successfully achieve the mission of clearly defining APPA's role in K-12 facilities. It is hardly surprising that Milliken is so committed to the task force; they have been an enthusiastic sponsor of APPA activities for many years.
The task force is composed of people from different areas of North America, from both public and private schools and from the aforementioned peer organizations. The APPA staff is represented by Tina Myers. In reality, this task force differs from the traditional APPA process of regional representation. One future challenge will be incorporating more APPA representatives into the planning role. However, the basic task now is to determine what will work for the K-12 environment, and who better than K-12 managers to help achieve this goal. Most task force members have great familiarity with the benefits afforded through APPA; in fact, all are Affiliate members.
At the initial task force meeting in LaGrange, December 1997, the group focused on organizational issues and a workable structure. This included a lot of brainstorming, always relating to its charge and APPA's strategic planning process. A mission statement evolved to help set direction and the task force keyed on the following five broad areas for its future attention:
Each of these areas represents an opportunity to assist K-12 managers while also supporting APPA's strategic objectives.
As the brainstorming developed the group became more and more convinced that APPA's organizational structure and proven educational programs could greatly assist K12 facilities managers. The reality is that K-12 is very decentralized, both among the many states as well as within specific state operations. Consistent training opportunities and standards are just two of many areas that can suffer due to this decentralization. APPA educational programs offer a significant opportunity for professional development that far exceeds what most plant managers are exposed to.
As the first meeting concluded, each member accepted a specific action item to work on a continuing basis. This provides some continuity since the group only meets periodically during the year. Continuing action such as this enabled the task force to develop an ongoing relationship with NCEF, an alliance with great potential for enhanced nationwide communications.
The APPA Board of Directors held its mid-year meeting in Alexandria, Virginia in January 1998. During the meeting, it fully endorsed our initial recommendations and Milliken's offer of continued sponsorship of the group.
As a result, the second task force meeting also took place in LaGrange last March. Personal member action items were updated and the five broad area objectives were refined into three more succinct initiatives that will provide the basis for task force attention during this year. These are prominent areas that APPA's organization can best assist K-12 and its infrastructure challenges. The refined objectives are:
Communication is an over-arching theme in every element of the task force's mission. APPA staff will ensure that task force information is widely disseminated through the web site at www.appa.org under the K-12 icon.
An important point is ensuring that all of our energy and hard work is directed in exactly the right equation, in terms of time and effort. The group decided, since APPA's 1998 Educational Conference wasn't scheduled until August, that a third meeting should take place to synthesize plans for our presentation to the APPA Board. This meeting occurred during the final weekend in May.
In a broad context we focused on two areas preparation for the San Jose meeting in terms of progress to date and a planning perspective for next year, and, surprisingly, a new area evolved, strategic relationships. We were fortunate to have Lander Medlin, APPA's executive vice president, attend the meeting. It became clear to all of us that the task force is breaking some new ground with respect to the traditional APPA problem-solving process.
The most exciting element is that while we all feel good about contributing to our original charge, we also sense something bigger on the horizon. The K-12 Task Force is creating a unique and constructive approach in relationships among staff, corporate sponsors and organizations that have common goals and objectives. It will be interesting to follow our progress this year, and see what recommendations we can offer to the Board of Directors next year.
A number of important issues will receive task force attention during the coming year. First and foremost, the key three objectives will receive a great deal of attention and, hopefully, continue to move forward. To better define these objectives, I have asked the task force leaders to chronicle their thoughts about each in the accompanying articles. I have also asked Rob Lange from Milliken to express his perspective about supporting this initiative. Clearly, we couldn't be successful without Milliken's wonderful support; it just might be laying the groundwork for how we do business in the future. His perspective is one that all of us in APPA should genuinely appreciate.
As we started this initiative just about one year ago, we were the proverbial fish out of water! We weren't the traditional APPA group with the traditional roles and missions. We're probably not even sure where the journey will end. But, that is the best thing about APPA's new leaders. The term "traditional" is only one approach. Ours is another that is not only being accepted, but also being recognized as pacesetting.
So the question remains. Does APPA belong in K-12? Maybe not in the traditional sense, but, considering all the resources and expertise that it can bring to the table and examining the great challenges that currently exist in upgrading the nation"s schools, it becomes more and more evident that this is a partnership that needs to exist. The challenge for the K-12 Task Force is to sort through all the chaff and offer a solid sense of guidance. Does APPA belong in K-12? You bet it does!