By Gary Knepp
It wasn’t the most exciting thing that Milford schools ever did. It didn’t grab headlines in the local papers. But the decision to hire an operations manager was certainly one of the most important we ever made.
For years, schools claimed they needed help to manage its business affairs. In response, the Ohio General Assembly created the position of business manager. However, the state requirements for the position limits the position’s effectiveness. Essentially, it takes an educator and gives them a few business courses and issues a license. With that piece of paper in hand, the new business manager sets forth to manage a multi-million dollar enterprise. Not surprisingly, the results have been mixed.
Milford wanted a different approach. We wanted someone with a business degree with real world business experience. So we created the position of operations manager; permitting us to escape the state imposed straight jacket.
The district was about to embark upon the high school remodel when we hired Jeff Johnson who had a business degree and construction management experience. Due to favorable economic conditions, Johnson’s oversight of the construction of the process, and advice from Board member George Lucas, the project came in on time and significantly under budget. (Though larger than the original building, the “new” high school uses less energy to operate than before.) With the savings, the district undertook other projects.
At the junior high, four new classrooms were built and air conditioning expanded. The HVAC systems at the four new elementary schools were standardized, saving electric costs. Additional repairs were made at the high school, especially a new UV filter system at the pool which reduced chlorine use.
Johnson’s expertise in the construction business has enabled the district to skip several steps in the building process for the new Smith and Seipelt schools.
Johnson turned his attention from the high school building project to other business operations, especially busing and utility management. His efforts in these areas have also showed solid results.
The hiring an operations manager was a key aspect in the application of a business model to the non educational side of the budget. This has allowed the district to transfer the savings to support educational activities.
Gary Knepp is a candidate in the November 5, 2013 school board election. Visit his website at kneppbradyforschoolboard.com.