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From golf coach and history teacher to energy specialist and custodial director, the varied jobs in Cortney Smith’s background have shaped his path to becoming chief of facilities and operations for the Midland Independent School District in Texas.
FacilitiesNet: What led you into facilities maintenance and management?
Smith: I was initially a golf coach and history teacher for 10 years but transitioned from the classroom into district operations when I began working as an energy specialist in 2013. I found this new opportunity to be impactful by not only being able to save money for my school district but at the time being able to conserve energy and resources for the environment.
FN: What organizations have you worked for in your career, and what titles have you held?
Smith: I have worked as an energy specialist for Lubbock Independent School District (ISD), as well as Ector County ISD, for a total of six years. I also served as the custodial director for one year and executive director of operations for two years in Ector County ISD. I am now serving in my current role, chief of facilities and operations for the Midland ISD.
FN: What is the most challenging aspect of overseeing the operations of K-12 facilities?
Smith: There are many challenging aspects of overseeing the operations of K-12 facilities, and these can vary depending on the context and needs of any district. That said, aging infrastructure comes to mind first. Many districts have aging facilities that require ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Having to prioritize and plan for renovations and repairs to ensure our facilities remain safe, functional and conducive to our learning environments is absolutely a challenge.
In addition to aging infrastructure, managing multiple stakeholders throughout the district is another potential obstacle. This includes students, teachers, staff members, parents, community members, and our board of trustees. Balancing the needs and expectations of these stakeholders, which can often be conflicting, can at times be challenging. External service providers, such as transportation companies, food service providers/vendors and maintenance contractors, also need to be coordinated and managed effectively. Ensuring that each of these providers deliver high-quality services on time and within budget to our district can be a complex task.
FN: What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Smith: We have successfully streamlined our operational processes, which has resulted in increased efficiency for our maintenance staff and increased efficiencies with equipment, resulting in cost savings for the district. We have also implemented a preventive maintenance program that has reduced equipment downtime and improved overall mechanical, plumbing and electrical equipment performance throughout Midland ISD.
Energy conservation measures have also been implemented, which has led to benefits for our environment and resulted in a reduction in utility costs. Dollars that would have been sent to utility companies are now being put back into the classroom for our students and staff.
Lastly, being able to complete significant facility renovation projects on time and within budget is a proud accomplishment not only for myself but is also a testament to the great team I am fortunate to work with on a daily basis.
FN: What has surprised you most about the facilities management profession?
Smith: The wide range of skills required throughout facilities management is most surprising. Facility managers need to have a strong understanding of building systems, such as HVAC, electrical and plumbing, in order to effectively address maintenance and repair issues.
One must also have excellent organizational and communication skills to coordinate with various stakeholders, such as contractors, vendors, and employees. Facility managers must also possess financial insight to create and manage budgets, to ensure that resources are allocated efficiently throughout all departments within the division.
Another aspect that has been surprising is the ability to adapt to unexpected situations. We often have to deal with emergencies or unforeseen events, such as power outages or equipment failures. One needs to be able to think quickly on their feet and come up with solutions to minimize disruptions and ensure the safety of everyone throughout each facility that is affected.
FN: What would you tell someone considering a career in facilities maintenance and management?
Smith: Facilities maintenance and management involves a wide range of tasks, including overseeing building maintenance, managing equipment, coordinating repairs and ensuring compliance with safety regulations. Anyone seeking a career in facility maintenance and operations should always be prepared for a diverse set of responsibilities.
The field of facilities maintenance and management is also constantly evolving, with new technologies and practices continuously coming about. It is important to stay updated with industry trends, regulations and advancements in order to provide the best possible solutions for your district and ultimately for the students and staff members we are here to support.
Dan Hounsell is the senior editor of the facilities market.