No two days are the same in a school, a sentiment that building service staff know well. At Maurice J. McDonough High School, the nine-person building service team, led by manager Chris Howard, has the added challenge of coordinating with contractors and construction staff working on the school’s addition and renovation.
“It’s a little chaotic at times,” Howard said. “You have to be flexible.” That includes giving up weekends to be onsite while construction crews forge ahead on projects. And with an eye on the forecast, it isn’t unheard of for building service managers and assistant managers to swing by a building ahead of inclement weather — like the rain that churned over the area last weekend — to check for leaks or other issues that could spring up.
Building service staff either work the day shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., or evenings from 2 to 10 p.m. Howard takes the days at McDonough, arriving at 5 a.m. each morning to walk the building and sketch out the day ahead.
When assistant manager Stephen Butler comes in for the night shift, he gets caught up on what took place during the day and prepares for the evening activities including athletics, meetings and extracurricular activities.
A well laid plan could be upended within seconds, Howard said. “You can’t plan a day. You have an idea of what you want to do but anything can come up,” he said. “From a kid getting sick right off the bus early in the morning, or a teacher needs help with a ceiling tile in a classroom, there’s a coffee spill …. There’s constantly something to do.”
It’s a pace Howard appreciates. “Personally, I love it,” he said. “It makes my day go by a lot faster.”
When Howard heads out, Butler takes over, having to oversee the building in the evening when practice and games are underway, and events are hosted. “Sports, clubs,” Butler said. “You never know what will go on with any of that.”
Building service workers are tasked with not only cleaning buildings and keeping them safe for students and staff, but they also maintain the grounds as well. If something happens after hours at a school —say, the building alarm goes off — the building manager will likely be called to report following the principal. They can be called on to assist with bus duty, set up and break down for events, landscape, remove snow and other duties as assigned.
Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) celebrates the 247 full-time building service workers and 49 floaters on Oct. 2 — Building Service Worker Day. “Successful managers and assistant managers have to have effective communication skills, be detail oriented and be organized,” April Murphy, supervisor of operations for CCPS, said.
Howard and Butler look for those same qualities in their staff.
“The main thing we look for is effort,” Butler said. “You have to put in the effort and have to have that drive.”
“It’s good to be self-motivated, to be an independent worker. A lot of times you’re working alone,” Howard said. “Here at McDonough, I can say we definitely care. The staff here is unusual — in a good way. Everyone on our staff cares about the building. They want to make sure it’s clean and safe for the kids.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).