Joe Bolton is executive director, auxiliary services, at Jefferson County Public Schools, Lakewood, Colorado.
Can APPA and K-12 facilities managers work together in resolving the enormous issues faced by today's K-12 community? The APPA appointed K-12 Task Force thinks so. However, the belief is that to forge any working relationship within the K-16 educational environment, higher education must take the lead role. Keeping in mind this premise and the theory that by acting together, facilities managers can effectively work on problems that plague all, the task force agreed on three distinct, maintenance management oriented objectives.
In this article, I will discuss one of these objectives: developing a "network" system where members of the K-12 community can access facilities-related information and communicate with APPA members or other school districts. As maintenance professionals, each of us realizes that educational organizations across the country experience the need for data on an almost daily basis. Time and resources are expended in attempts to resolve issues someone else has already addressed, as most of this data is readily available in some form or another. So, why reinvent the wheel?
Plant managers in higher education have effectively resolved this problem through the years. But, unlike their associates in APPA, and being decentralized as public education institutions are, K-12 facility managers have not had the opportunity to organize at a national level into an information-sharing group. Hopefully, this is where APPA's proven leadership will come into play, fashioning a formal relationship with K-12 by providing guidance and support.
No doubt, a need exists to share data, which would greatly assist each of us in resolving problems dealing with:
These demands place undue burdens on already limited resources. In other words, facility managers are expected to do more with less. What will help to reduce the impact of and overcome these challenges? As maintenance leaders we must, unilaterally, design, agree upon and accept core benchmarking and best practice strategies (these two topics will be addressed in separate articles); then, establish a process for exchanging this data and other facility-related information. The task force believes that acceptance of these initiatives will assist in budgeting, identify areas for change, improve efficiency, improve planning, and improve services.
However, before an effective network system can be successfully created, consideration must be given to resolve the following:
Realizing the amount of effort required in finding a solution for each of these concerns, task force members felt that because of the criticality in providing reliable facilities information, they should not rush into a problem-solving role. Each agreed to take time and formulate a viable recommendation to APPA within one year. The single greatest concern is how to communicate with the vast number of public, private, and parochial K-12 school districts. Even though a majority of these districts have fewer than l,500 students, they also experience the same increased deferred maintenance pressures, inadequate training, and a fundamental need for operations and maintenance information as larger educational communities.
So, how do we "reach out and touch" this community? Efforts are being taken to access the U.S. Department of Education's website electronic mailing address system. This access will provide names and mailing addresses for specific public school districts, but not private or parochial schools. As the mailing lists are obtained, labels and a form letter will be prepared and mailed to individuals responsible for facility maintenance at each school district. The letter will identify why APPA's K-12 Task Force was approved and established by APPA and its goals and responsibilities. Addressees will be requested to provide input on what they perceive as top priority concerns and how best to communicate with their district. Included will be a website address to access information related to facility design, construction, operations, and maintenance.
Obtaining private and parochial school names and addresses will present an even larger challenge to the task force. However, task force members believe it is in the best interest of the entire educational community that attempts be made to provide facility-related information to all, not just segments. Keep in mind, as this article is being written, a centralized record repository has not been discovered to provide names and mailing addresses for this group of educational institutions. Do not abandon the ship! Two strong points of this task force are reliability and persistency. They will find a means to communicate with private and parochial schools.
You might wonder why is this mailing such a challenge? Address labels are available, all one needs to do are prepare a form letter, stuff envelops and mail them. Not so simple! Someone must prepare thousands of labels and envelopes for stuffing, and this is just to initiate the communications process. Information must then be collected, analyzed, and made available for dissemination. The intent is to have one database format; hopefully, APPA's proposed new system will be the one utilized.
Members of the K-12 Task Force do not have all the answers yet. It will take time to develop strategies and coordination with APPA on how to build a framework and contribute in meaningful ways toward the priority objectives established by the task force. It is anticipated that a formalized recommendation will be presented during the summer of l999 to APPA for approval and, we hope, implementation.
Your ideas will be helpful and can be provided to the task force by accessing APPANet at www.appa.org and clicking on the K-12 icon. Let this be the beginning of momentum to establish a K-16 network!