Maintenance Column -- DISTRICT CUSTODIAL SERVICES

The operative word is“district.”

I am sure many school systems around the nation are organized like ours was, with custodians being assigned to an individual school, and the principal responsible for their performance — at least that is typical in Kentucky.

Of course, every building is thought to reflect its administrator's leadership in custodial services. A district with 10 buildings may, for example, have three or four levels of clean, indicating some principal's show more attention to detail than others when it comes to cleaning a building. This is what we experienced at Boyd County, and it was reflected in our health department building inspection scores. In many districts, principals hire their own custodial staff, and their expectations (if a standard has not been established) vary and are reflected in the personnel they employ. The fact is, principals are educational professionals trained to educate students. They receive little to no education in building maintenance when working on their degree. However, when entering a school building, the public judges every principal by whether that school is clean.

Boyd County Schools is in its fourth year of what we refer to as "District Custodial Services." Having experienced different levels of clean, and less than acceptable health inspection scores, we decided to make some drastic changes. The superintendent was open to the proposal to place custodial services under district management with the same basic structure as our maintenance department. Our strategic plan included the following.

We introduced the program in a leadership meeting, comprised of principals and the rest of the Central Office staff, approximately six months prior to implementation. One of the most difficult obstacles was discontinuing the practice of custodians reporting directly to the principal, and restricting their duties to custodial tasks. Many custodians were performing non-custodial assignments, from running errands, to making coffee, to watching students who arrive early and even afternoon bus duty. Losing this always-available person was a huge loss.

It was also difficult for the lead custodian. How can a lead custodian (working the day shift) supervise the evening crew while passing each other at the shift change? We moved all lead people to the evening shift to provide instruction and supervision, and to monitor the work. We lost a few folks in the process, but the losses were minimal when compared to the gains.

Before implementing this program, an extensive study was conducted on every custodial position in the district. Interviews by an outside vendor were held with each person to determine exactly what task they performed on a daily and weekly basis. Using our own experience and the industry standards, we were able to staff our buildings properly and establish work schedules for each individual. During the past several years, we have standardized our equipment, which has improved our performance. We tested products and selected those that perform best. We developed manuals for each lead person and each facility that serve as a ready reference on cleaning methods or use of equipment.

Work schedules were established. Tasks were assigned addressing detail work that was formerly never considered. We“found” time to freshen the restrooms at every class change during the day at our middle school and high school — with remarkable results. By attaining a balance of work assignments, production has been improved. Employee evaluations are much easier to do, and growth patterns for each employee are easily defined. Our standard of clean has been elevated and our floors, for example, are no longer second to hospitals, In fact, I believe we exceed their standards now.

Moving custodial services to the district level has proven to be a wise choice for Boyd County Schools. Within 60 days of implementing the program, we began receiving accolades from the teaching staff, letters of approval from the Health Department and positive comments from the public.

Boyd County Schools is the only district in Kentucky, to my knowledge, that has this program as described. A few districts in other parts of the country have similar programs. Boyd County Schools’ success has encouraged other districts to request a site visit as part of their decision while considering this program.

EDGAR “PETE” MILLER Miller is director of Facilities for Boyd County Schools and Immediate Past President of the National School Plant Management Association.

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