An essential component of an effective school program is a well-conceived school facilities maintenance plan. A properly implemented plan provides school administrators comfort and confidence when contemplating the future of their campuses.
Unless facilities maintenance planning is a component of a greater organizational management plan, it is doomed to failure. After all, how else can maintenance planners be certain that other policy-makers share their priorities? Or that funds will be available to achieve their goals? And how else can they learn about demographic and enrollment projections and the ensuing changes in building demand? Thus, facilities maintenance planning must be an element of the overall organizational strategy-part of the "master plan."
master plan is the "blueprint" for daily decision-making throughout a
school district. It provides concrete documentation about the organization's
needs and intentions. Moreover, it is a formal way of communicating the
district's priorities, and establishes necessary documentation for funding
authorities and other approving organizations. Good plans include short-
and long-term objectives, budgets, and timelines, all of which demonstrate
organizational commitment to facilities maintenance. Effective planning
also requires that planners evaluate both the organization's overarching
goals and the day-to-day details needed to meet those targets. Thus, a
comprehensive plan serves both as a blueprint for the here and now and
a road map to the future!
"Planning" is the formulation of a strategy for getting an organization from the here and now to the future. As circumstances change over time, strategies for achieving tomorrow's successes often change as well. Good planners are always mindful of the need to review, and even revise, plans to meet the changing needs of the organization.
Having said this, however, planners must also accept that the future is not now (despite the adage that suggests differently). In other words, change takes time, and improvements in organization-wide endeavors most often occur in steps. If a school district finds itself in need of a major overhaul in its facilities maintenance management system, it cannot expect to jump to the head of the field in one or two years. Instead, planners must institute improvements over longer time frames and accept that progress is measured relative to the organization's starting point rather than by comparisons with other organizations that may or may not be working under comparable circumstances.
In many ways, the process of planning is more important than the outcome. The process of formulating a plan establishes a forum through which interested parties have a chance to voice their opinions about the future of the organization. This opportunity, and the dialogue (and even debate) that ensues, is an effective way of infusing fresh ideas and new perspectives into school management. Collaborative planning also helps stakeholders feel that their views are respected and valued. In turn, this atmosphere of respect often fosters staff and community support for the decisions being made about the future direction of the organization (and, perhaps more importantly, the day-to-day steps that must be taken to achieve these goals).
Why include stakeholders in the planning process?
Who is involved in the planning process? Ideally, stakeholders include anyone who has a "sense of ownership" in facilities decision-making, even though they might not have any legal rights (or even expectations) to make decisions about school facilities and property. As the list of stakeholders grows larger, it often makes sense to include representatives of stakeholder groups (rather than every individual) as long as the selection process is conducted fairly and equitably.
Steps for effectively engaging stakeholders in the planning process include:
What does your community value? The appearance of your community's school buildings says a lot about its values. Some communities have gone one step further and actively planned for their schools to reflect greater community values. For example, one school district in Utah requires that art museums and climbing walls be included in all new school construction to reflect the community's belief in the importance of art, exercise, and nature.
A vision statement is a proclamation of how an organization, department, group, or individual wants to see itself in the future.
vision\ vizh-n\ n: the act or power of seeing; unusual discernment or foresight.
After planners (including stakeholders) have been identified, the first and most important step in the planning process is achieving agreement on the desired outcome of the organization's efforts-that is, what is the group hoping that the plans will lead to in the future? A good way of clarifying and specifying these expectations is by developing a vision statement that affirms how an entity wants to see itself in the future. An individual can have a vision statement, as can a department, group, or even an entire organization. The purpose of a vision statement is to develop a shared image of the future, which means gaining consensus about priorities. Thus, if an individual or department in an organization has a vision for its future, it cannot conflict with the vision of the larger organization within which they work. The vision for the facilities maintenance department, for example, must be driven by, and aligned with, the mission and goals of the district it serves; otherwise, the facilities manager and school superintendent will come into conflict-which is not good for the school district and certainly not good for the facilities manager!
Some administrators might argue that the goal of the maintenance department is simply that of the greater district it serves. However, it becomes difficult to operationalize such a "vision" that is not closely related to the day-to-day operations of the department. Thus, it is good practice for the facilities department to collaborate with representatives of the rest of the organization when generating consensus about its vision but, at the same time, to create a vision that directly relates to its day-to-day activities.
A vision statement should be a living document, but not short-lived. Otherwise, it can't inform long-term decision-making and investment. All
the same, a vision statement must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains relevant to the potentially changing needs of the organization. Investing time in creating a vision statement can save energy in the long run
by reminding staff of their priorities, but it is not an answer in itself-the work of maintaining a building still needs to get done. The vision statement merely (but not unimportantly) sets the goal against which policies, practices,
and efforts will be evaluated. For this reason, a vision statement should be supported by measurable objectives.
Creating a "vision" should take place in a creative atmosphere. Brainstorming, free-thinking, and open-mindedness are essential aspects of an honest assessment of an organization's desired future.
The National School Boards Association's online toolkit for "Creating a Vision" (http://www.nsba.org/sbot/toolkit/cav.html) recommends that when creating a vision statement, it helps to:
Moreover, when creating a vision statement, it is important to avoid:
Although a vision statement should be of a lasting nature, it must be revisited periodically to verify its continued relevance in an ever-changing world.
For more information about creating a vision, visit the following web pages: "Creating a Vision" (National School Boards Association) at http://www.nsba.org/sbot/toolkit/cav.html; "A Visioning Process for Designing Responsive Schools" (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) at http://www.edfacilities.org/pubs/sanoffvision.pdf; and "Community Participation in Planning" (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) at http://www.edfacilities.org/rl/community_participation.cfm.
This is not a capital planning guide, but any responsible examination of school facilities planning warrants some discussion about the links between facilities maintenance and facilities construction and renovation. Capital outlay for school construction is generally a more palatable proposition for taxpayers and public officials when a school district demonstrates that appropriate care and maintenance has been given to existing facilities.
Responsible facilities maintenance planning demands that attention be given to a wide range of other issues that influence organizational budgeting, including insurance coverage, land acquisition, equipment purchases, and building construction and renovation. While a detailed discussion of these issues is outside the scope of this Planning Guide, links to other resources that address these and other budgeting topics can be found at the end of this chapter.
For more information about maintenance costs and budgeting, visit the following web pages: "Budgeting for Facilities Maintenance and Repair Activities" at http://www.nap.edu/books/NI000085/html/index.html and "Maintenance & Operations Costs" at http://www.edfacilities.org/rl/mo_costs.cfm.