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Ask Harold (Bill) Good the most important element of his job as chief operations officer for the Des Moines Public Schools and he doesn’t hesitate: students. It’s not that the projects he spends his days working on with colleagues — to improve energy efficiency, renovate buildings, improve security, and more — aren’t important in and of themselves. But every decision Good makes comes back to doing what is best for the more than 33,000 students in the school district.
“There’s very little that’s more important than the opportunities we have for our students,” Good says. “(The operations staff) can’t take the place of teachers, but we can provide a learning environment that will optimize their abilities.”
Serving the public
Good, 69, has worked in the public sector for more than 50 years, starting part-time at an entry level job in Ames, Iowa, where his toughest job was mowing the grass on a steep slope beneath a large underpass. He worked his way up to assistant superintendent of public works and after 13 years, he went to the Davenport Community School District for 23 years. Good was recruited by the then superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest public school district with 71 buildings and more than 6 million square feet, for the chief operations position he’s held for 13 years.
“Bill is the quintessential public servant,” says Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart. “He strives each and every day to ensure that our public dollars are being leveraged as effectively and efficiently as possible for the public benefit.”
Principals in the Des Moines schools can attest to that. Michael Derrick, a principal at Perkins Elementary School, participated in construction meetings with Good and his staff during the summer. Good’s top priorities during the meetings were finding out whether the school buildings would be ready for the students in August, whether anyone could foresee any problems and, if so, what the problems were and how they would be solved.
“He’s about making the learning environment as comfortable as possible for kids,” Derrick says of Good, whom he considers a mentor.
When Kathryn Panek began her job as principal of Merrill Middle School in July 2018, Good came out within her first few weeks on the job and spent most of a day walking around the building with her, wanting to know her vision for the school, how learning occurs at the school, how space was being utilized, and how it could be utilized more efficiently. Good listened intently so he could design a plan to maximize the school’s space, says Panek.
Good and his team then got busy this past summer, renovating and upgrading performing arts classrooms and science classrooms. A small auditorium that was underutilized was turned into office space. The school also now has a secure entrance and a new student drop-off in the front of the building to reduce the number of vehicles on a busy street.
When Good arrived in Des Moines, some elementary schools had one space that was used as the gym, the cafeteria, and the auditorium. In the past five years, Good and his team added spaces at 15 elementary schools so they could have separate gym and multipurpose room spaces. Having the separate spaces helps in scheduling classes and other activities, particularly given how much cleanup there is after lunch and before a physical education class, Good says.
“That’s where we can add value for students and faculty, optimizing students’ time in class,” Good says.
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