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Florida School District’s Director of Maintenance Always Looking Ahead

Mark Cavinee is the director of maintenance in the Osceola County School District, headquartered in Kissimmee, Fla. The district features 52 schools, more than 7,000 employees and 59,000 students in one of the faster growing counties in the state.


Cavinee started his career in the school district in 1987, rising to the position of director in 2014. Along the way Cavinee focused on training, continuing education and gaining certifications whenever possible to continue his climb through the ranks. Dave Lubach, the associate editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and Cavinee discussed his climb in this month’s Management Track podcast.

Tom Brantley

Mark Cavinee
director of maintenance
Osceola County School District


Q: When and where did you begin your career in maintenance and engineering management?

I feel like my career in maintenance management began when I first joined the workforce. To better explain this response I offer that every work experience helped to create the person I am and therefore prepare me for this career. I started my career as a general maintenance specialist for the school district in 1987. This position exposed me to most of the trades that I am responsible for as the Director of Maintenance today.


2. What credentials, certifications, licenses or other professional designations have you earned?

I feel that education is the key to anyone's success. During my career I have earned a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies from Rollins College and an Associate's Degree from Valencia Community College. I have been certified as a special fire safety inspector and a fire safety inspector in the State of Florida. I have also expanded my knowledge in the field over the years through various certification and training courses.


3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Maintenance can be a very “behind the scene” profession and the most rewarding part of my job is when the efforts of staff get recognized for a job well done by the end user.


4. What is the most challenging?

I would have to say that the management of staff is one of the more challenging aspects of maintenance management. With a wide variety of expertise you often have seasoned professionals that each come with their own ideas of how things should run or should be managed. Staff can often misunderstand the direction a department is going so constant communication is critical.


5. What is the best piece of advice you have received about your career?

The best advice I have received is to prepare and plan for succession. Being the Director of Maintenance for a non-profit school district poses challenges when trying to recruit talented tradesmen. Our best approach is to utilize succession planning to ensure in-house staff receive training and field expertise to fill positions as they become available.


6. What do you wish they had told you about the profession before you started?

Tough question and I am not sure that I have a great answer. Since my involvement in maintenance has been throughout my entire working life, I like to think that I have built a strong base of knowledge throughout the years in this field. The only thing that I can think of that I wish I would have known was that you should never feel like an outside company will always be the best company to support you. Support companies change people and change approaches, and sometimes these changes affect the performance of these support areas. Always be prepared to assess all aspects that support your mission.


7. You have been fortunate to move up through the same school district over many years to the position you have now. What advice do you have for someone who is looking to move up in the maintenance and engineering profession?

My advice for anyone wishing to move up is to focus on as much training, education, and certifications as you can. While you may not feel they are important each course helps you hone your understanding from various perspectives. Do not focus on what you need as a minimum to get a job. Focus on what you need to better understand your field. As long as you approach each position you hold in the maintenance area as a career step and not a final position it will help you keep learning. Never become discouraged because you didn't get a promotion. It doesn't always mean you weren't a good person for that position … it may just mean that someone else had some edge over you for that position at that time. Keep trying and making yourself better. Be open to feedback from your supervisor. Ask how you can better yourself for the next position. Understand that negativity never gets rewarded. 8. What are some of the challenges you see in the profession moving forward?

The biggest challenge is finding and hiring skilled tradesmen. Budgets are always an issue and finding more creative ways to focus on preventative and prescriptive maintenance are paramount. Maintenance is best and most affordable when it is based on planned maintenance activities. The challenge is to highlight the good performance of the maintenance department by reducing the number of “emergency calls.” Another challenge we face is selecting appropriate equipment for our sites that are not proprietary in nature. This is more and more challenging with the advancement of electronics in equipment. Proprietary equipment often causes a dependence on a particular company and then costs begin to escalate.

posted:  8/22/2016