Work Session on Maintenance

This Board work session was dubbed for the new plan for facilities, "Strategic Infrastructure and Maintenance Initiative (SIMI). All the Board members were present as was the Superintendent. This meeting was not to ask anything of the Board but to give them a review and update. (Note: this thread is long and I apologize but if you do choose to read the whole thing, you will have a better understanding of what the district is doing for our facilities.)

Maintenance Direct - what used to be called Regular Maintenance
PM Direct - Preventative Maintenance
SIMI - Strategic Infrastructure and Maintenance Initiative
APS - Asset Preservation System
APP - OSPI term - Asset Preservation Program
BMAR - Backlog of Maintenance and Repair
TCO - Total Cost of Ownership

The reason you should be interested in this thread is two-fold. One, it explains how each school will now be filing maintenance requests and two, it is a sobering reminder of the state of our SPS infrastructure.

First up was Mark Pflueger, the manager of Maintenance. As you may recall, at an Operations committee meeting earlier this year, he talked about plans for maintenance in the district. (Again, as you may recall, we have nearly $500M in backlogged maintenance; more on that issue later.)

Great thing number one. He was announcing that they had installed School Dude software and it went live Sept. 1. This software will allow principals to report a maintenance need at their schools. It has also been used to put in all the existing valid work orders. All the principals and central office staff have been trained to use it.

Great thing number two. The district now has a Zone Crew which is made up of 12 people. There are laborers, carpenter, plumber, electrician, painters, pipefitters, etc. The idea is that they go out to a school and get everything done all at once. This is an idea tested in other districts and has worked well. (One issue here is that they did cut the number of laborers in half and you have to wonder if the other people on the zone crew would be so specialized that they might not want to do general work if more people were needed there. I have to ask Mr. Pflueger about this.)

The Zone Crew is there mainly to do immediate maintenance care, not work on the backlog of maintenance (more on why in a minute). The Zone Crew Foreman has been surveying sites since March 2010 and they have worked through 30 of the appr. 95 buildings open. Right now, they have the Zone Crew out and working at Arbor Heights and Roxhill Elementary.

So then there were questions from the Board:

Carr - Is maintenance backlog going up, down or the same?
Pflueger - Generally going up as we get a fuller picture of the inventory of work
Bill Martin (current interim manager for Facilities) - Maintenance costs will increase as we get that big picture overview.
Kay - Could you name the top 6 things that the Zone Crew might fix?
Pflueger - painting hallways, leaking pipes, things that students and staff operate
Betty - (again, not listening to the presentation): what is the difference between the Zone Crew and School Dude?
Harium- Happy to hear about Zone Crew but could we have two, one for the north and one for the south? (here we see knowing looks between Facilities staff)
Martin: I told Mark not to say this but Mark's goal is for more but we don't have the resources. Maybe in 6 months but we want to show results.
Pflueger: this is big step and a cultural change of how we do business at SPS.
Forgot who asked but : how will School Dude work for schools?
Pflueger: the work order gets taken and assigned a priority. We let the principal know when we will be coming. After the work order is completed, we e-mail back to the school letting them know the work is completed and they can give feedback on the service.
Steve - is the Zone Crew segregated from critical response?
Pflueger - yes and we still have a full cadre of people to response to critical issues
Sherry - how is the work prioritized?
Pflueger - honestly, we won't be able to get to all the maintenance and we will tell principals that. If it is something beyond our scope, it will be referred to the BTA list and again, principals will be told that.
Michael - It's a good idea to bring all the trades to each school. How many visits in a year will each school see?
Pflueger - all 94 will be visited at least once this year and we used a methodical approach to who goes first based on condition index/Meng report/age of facilities

PM Progress

The PM Direct gives us the ability to start documenting preventative maintenance procedures in buildings and gives us s complete inventory of building assets. We will going through inventory and barcode it and develope a list of equipment. (Note: I know that some equipment IS already barcoded but again, it's 2010 and we have to even say this is what we are doing? But the Auditor's report shows that the district still does have issues about tracking equipment.)

Developing the PM plan can extend the life of buildings AND help the district better plan for equipment replacement. For example, if they see a spike in energy usage in a building that might signal an issue with a boiler that might need replacement.

Board questions:

Steve - what is the leverability of the model with the wide number of kinds of buildings in the district?
Chris (another Facilities person): We are probably going to have better success with buildings that are 20 years old or newer. There are so many incremental changes to older buildings over the years that it is hard to track where you are. "I doubt that anything over 20 years will make the cut for TCO." (Off the top of my head, if he is talking strictly about buildings that have been totally redone, I'd say that's about 33 buildings.)
Bill - But we are looking for a cultural change and so it is important for BTA and BEX projects to start this work.

Great thing number three is that, as previously reported, the district applied for and got all 7 sustainable construction grants. So that is $11M in total project costs and $3.8M in grants. They have also submitted grants to OSPI for an additional $6M for these kinds of projects and will heard back soon.

This is all well and good but confusing. My first post on this from August 14 had about 21 schools getting benefits but the presentation says 7 projects. I'll have to ask. Plus at this meeting it was stated that all the schools getting these grants were in current BTA funding anyway so that will stretch those dollars. (Okay, I'll bite. If you are saving $3.8M in BTA costs, where will that money go?)

Frank Griffin, another Facilities person, stated that he was working with the Board Operations Committee on the Natural Resources Conservation Policy (H25.00) to include the Copenhagen accord (GHG - 17% reduction). (Great but hilarious because not only will there be a policy but also the Superintendent Resources Conservation Procedure and an SPS Sustainability Action Plan. Yes, you need a scorecard to keep up.)

Kay then said something interesting that any money we save here "should go into the classroom". Good luck with that one, Kay. We NEVER get feedback on if the district ever really saves money when they say they will and if they do, WHERE the money went. This is one accountability measure I wish the current Boards and future Boards would require staff to do. Annually, tell the public if they did save money where they thought they might and how much and where was it directed. A girl can dream.

Then we came to the crux of the meeting (for me, anyway), the BMAR. We brought in yet another staffer, Dan Anger, who stated that we have about $3M in backlogged work orders for maintenance. (But we know we have almost $500M in backlogged work? And....)

What this means is that the backlog - the nearly $500M backlog - is mostly (their estimate is about 95%) capital. This means that most of that work has to come from BEX or BTA, the Capital side. This is huge because it means that getting School Dude and a Zone Crew is not going to make any sort of real dent in the backlog. It means that we have so many old buildings that we can only patch them until we can rebuild them but a large number are getting to the critical place sooner. "Basically, it's going to get worse until it gets better" (and that's a quote from Bill Martin).

Board questions:

Kay - is there language in Initiative 52 that means we would end up getting helped?
Bill - smiling - I haven't had the chance to assess that.
Michael (being Michael, asks a question again and again until he gets an answer): We have nearly $500M in backlog and it's accruing. What is eligible to be in the capital budget?
Bill - It varies. The communications between capital and operations has been spotty so we hope School Dude will serve as a communications tool.
Michael - back to my question, the RCW is clear on this point about what can be done with which money.
Bill - (odd answer, here that I'll have to ask him about) - Yes, they are but no numbers or percentages.

They still need to calculate the 2010 capital repair by : taking out 2009-2010 BEX/BTA work, subtracting out buildings demolished or sold and adding deficiencies found in new buildings or those not previously surveyed.

That paragraph is very important because (1) I thought someone, somewhere WAS tracking all the BTA and BEX work, (2) I wasn't aware that we demolished any buildings that we didn't rebuild so help me out if I've forgotten and (3) OMI, we're already finding deficiencies in new buildings? Great.

Lastly there was the APS discussion. This is a pilot program from the state in accordance with WA State Administrative Code and OSPI. It is to monitor new buildings that received funding via the state (meaning, is the district protecting the state's investment). This is something the Board will be voting on. There are 8 SPS buildings in this pilot program but they were not named. By Jan 2011 SPS has to certify to OSPI that it has an Asset Preservation System and there is to be a facility condition report of the APS schools to the Board and OSPI by April 2011.

Takeaway: Slowly, slowly this district is being made aware (either by the state or just the sheer volume) of its responsibility for SPS infrastructure. Too long this was put on the backburner and we now have an almost overwhelming amount of work. That some of it is being blamed on the inability of Operations and Capital sides to communicate is just sad because this, THIS is what hurts our kids and our school staffs. The district is making progress but that most of the work is dependent on money from levies and bonds is worrisome.

I honestly don't know how to process that we are not going to get ahead much in that backlog. Between reopening old buildings (that had not been maintained because what little maintenance was going on was in opened buildings) and their associated costs AND the sheer number of older buildings, I don't see how BEX and BTA will get to it fast enough.

The reason this is important is well, it may affect the school your child attends or will be attending. It will definitely affected the next BEX. The BEX Oversight Committee has already been discussing more cookie-cutter schools (especially for elementaries) and that IS the way to get the biggest bang for the buck and what many other districts already do. It may well spell the end of any historic remodels as that just isn't sustainable. That we did it for our "crown jewels" of our high schools seems folly to me at this point but what's done is done.


ebaer said…
Thank you for a really important post. For those who don't think this is important, just look at the unacknowledged/denied impact of building condition on past closures.
ttln said…
clarification on school dude reporting (does dude stand for something?): has the point person changed? What, then, do head custodians do if the principals are in charge of work orders? Perhaps this has always been the case, but I thought that the managing of the building repairs was done by the building's head custodian. If this is a change is it compliant w/ head custodian's contract? We aren't allowed to drill a hole to hang a clock because it violates his contract. I am just curious about the confluence of roles here. (I'll bet skilled members of the crew can do 'laborer' task, at a lower rate of pay, but laborers cannot do jobs of skilled trade pros due to union regs).
ttln, I should have said that it goes to someone at the school instead of saying principals (although they are the ones trained on it according to the presentation). Maybe the principals will show the custodians? That issue wasn't brought up and that's a good one.

(Yeah, that was my thought on the union issue but I didn't know if say, the plumbers, in one union, wouldn't want to do another job belonging to another union? I don't know enough about that.)
Dave said…
The reason untrained staff are discouraged from drilling holes to hang things has nothing to do with the custodains contract. No more than other untrained staff teaching students violates teacher contracts. It is because they are untrained. Miss the studs and hang film screens, clocks, etc., a few times and add even more to the maintenance backlog when the next tennant of your space wants the holes filled and repainted because you took your clock or the screen pulled out of the wall, etc., and you might understand. Until then, maybe stick to what you have been trained to do.

That would help everyone.
ttln said…
dave, you make assumptions about training, skills, and ability as well as my personal common sense.

However, I see your point. Since my experience is not everyone's reality, not all are as "multi-abilitied" and experienced with such things as power tools, hanging a clock or installing a keyboard tray, or drilling holes to run cords through the back of a fixture to help a door close that doesn't because the cords come through the front...

However, when I ask, it's the "violates their contract" answer I get. Sometimes, though, he lets me get away with it (hanging my own white board surfaces over chalkboards, for example). I do make one request about the matter, if the real issue is with potential problems that are a result of DIY on the part of teachers, then say so and do not give the "union" answer. The union answer makes the issue seem silly instead of a matter of mitigating potentially costly repairs.

Many teacher DIY because the work orders don't get filled in a timely manner or ever, in some cases (teacher who ordered blinds hung in 2001 who, in 2009, still hadn't had blinds hung).

By the way, I would love my custodian to come in a read with my kids and talk to them about books and their writing. It creates a school-wide environment of literacy and helps kids to see custodians as thinking, feeling, humans rather than the disrespectful views of them as "trash collector" or "floor mopper" they wrongly assume them to be. A little "out of context" interaction goes a long way toward building relationships and a school-wide climate of respect.
ttln, that's a really good point about the kids and ALL the staff in the building. Kids sometimes feel more comfortable with lunchroom staff and the custodian than they do with teachers. Anytime a kid can feel there are adults - everywhere - who care and can be counted on, it can make a difference.
seattle citizen said…
No, Melissa, many of these adults who interact with students during a day, such as the custodian, the nurse, the librarian, and the secretary can't be making a difference because they are not evaluated as "value added" to a student's education.
Surely if they made a difference the district would measure and reward their contributions.
No, they and the art, music, PE and other certs are not contributing to a student's growth.
I know what you mean SC but you and I know what those people can really mean in the life of a child.
Dave said…
ttln, you make very good points. Thank you.

A good example of mine was an instance where last school year a "head teacher" at the beautiful Coe elementary caused significant damage (and resulting restoration work) by DIY work there. That means a tradesman was'nt working on the backlog but on unnecessary repair.

No union can be responsible for the words of each of its members but if you ever want an accurate picture of the reasons behind DISTRICT POLICIES AND INSTRUCTIONS to staff such as custodians, I would encourage you to contact the union directly at 206.441.8544. These are all District employees and would be happy to explain or give the backround on the hows and whys of what you are running up against.

The work order (or lack of) system has had problems because folks downtown who have never worked in buildings (sound familiar?) decide what are priorities and apparently the blinds you mention have been lowered to the bottom of the list. I assure you that if one of them wants blinds for their workspace, it gets a high priority!

Finally, to Seattle citizen, both custodians and lunch staff are evaluated on student contact and have been for some time. In fact until recently THEY have been the only staff in the District to have regular comprehensive evaluations and pay tied to performance. Have for many years.

Problem is, they work on timed standard "piece work" (so many minutes to sweep so many square feet, seconds to produce a meal, etc.) and have supervisors that also work downtown (with covered windows and a code necessary to see where they work) who want them PRODUCING every minute.

Lets focus on the "game, not the player".

Enjoy the dialog though, very much.

Thank you both.
seattle citizen said…
Dave, I was being ironic with my comment about non-core staff not contributing to the educational life of a student.

I had no idea that custodial and lunch staff were paid on a merit basis. Intersting. How does that work?
Dave said…
Unlike administrators that move up the "increment" scale by simply keeping from being fired, custodians and lunchroom staff must get a certain numerical rating on their evaluations in order to get increments. If they fall below, they stay status quo until improved.

Oh yes, and work improvement plans have been part of the process of addressing poor performance for decades. Progressive,huh?

Just took administration a long time to see the logic.

Thanks for asking.
Dave said…
Oh, and two more things:

ttln: the custodian will still be responsible for managing work orders as peincipals are supposed to be "istructional leaders" of their schools and not so much building managers.

And, Seattle citizen, the custodial evaluation system also involves specific written criteria for every rating category on the instrument in order to quantify comprehensive scoring. These criteria were developed jointly by the union and management well before the turn of the last century (1992).

This was a total revelation to the "team" the District needed to assemble to examine the issue for other employees. THAT'S where the money goes.
wsnorth said…
I'm surprised by this statement, and saddened if it is true:

It may well spell the end of any historic remodels as that just isn't sustainable. That we did it for our "crown jewels" of our high schools seems folly to me at this point but what's done is done.

I don't think it is folly at all to preserve beautiful historic buildings and provide a campus students and the community can be proud of. Elementary students might not care much, but older kids do, and it is a source of community pride for generations to come. If we wanted to live in a city and community without history or soul, there are lots of choices. May I suggest Fife or Federal Way for those of you who feel this way.

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