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Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities
Chapter 1
  Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning
Chapter 2
    Planning for School Facilities Maintenance
Chapter 3
    Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have
Chapter 4
    Providing a Safe Environment for Learning
Chapter 5
    Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds
Chapter 6
    Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors
Chapter 7
    Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Efforts
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Chapter 6
Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors


  Image of Checkmark To communicate the necessity of good human resources practices as a pre-condition for effective facilities maintenance management
  Image of Checkmark To describe best practice strategies for effectively managing staff

Why bother to put energy into managing your staff? Because they are the people who make the day-to-day decisions that determine how your facilities work. Their preparation and support will determine whether or not facilities are run properly, efficiently, and safely.

Hiring Staff

Image of KeysTimes are changing. It used to be that maintenance and custodial work was categorized as "basic labor." Today, however, most maintenance jobs demand specialized skills and training. For example, staff working in a modern boiler room need to be trained in computer use to operate the building's heating and cooling systems. This change in the expectations requires a corresponding change in the selection and training of maintenance personnel. Selecting the right staff requires that time and energy be put into identifying the needs of the organization, developing accurate job descriptions, envisioning the characteristics of "ideal" employees, and verifying each applicant's qualifications.

Someone on the hiring team must have command of the technical aspects of the position. The superintendent can't accurately evaluate whether a candidate knows a great deal about HVAC repair, or just a little more than the hiring committee knows. Unless a committee member can verify expertise, the organization won't find out how much (or little) the candidate knows until the person is already on the job!

Job Descriptions

See Appendix F for a model job description for a custodial worker.

A good job description accurately identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by an individual to meet the expectations of the job. It also describes the type of person the organization wants to hire into its ranks.

The Tale of the Unhappy "Groundskeeper"

Jack enjoyed being outdoors. He'd always liked picnics and parks, so it didn't surprise him when he realized that an office job just wasn't his cup of tea. He was surprised, however, when he didn't even like his job as a "groundskeeper" at the local high school. Jack had thought that he'd love the job-he had visions of working in the sun, cutting grass, maintaining gardens, trimming trees. Instead he found he had to spend most of his time in the shop tinkering with mowers, leaf blowers, and power saws-while his "field personnel" got to use (and break) the equipment out under the sun. Shouldn't someone have told him in advance what a groundskeeper's job was in the school district? He probably wouldn't have accepted the position but, at least then, he wouldn't hate his job.

Components of an effective job description include:

  Graphic of Checkmark Image of KeysDuties and responsibilities. If the organization needs someone to run a leaf blower for 40 hours a week, it shouldn't advertise a position that would stir the interest of someone who wants to be a gardener. The aspiring gardener will likely resent the misunderstanding every time he or she has to ask the real gardener to step aside in order to clear the grounds of leaves. As this resentment builds and the employee either quits the job or begins to perform in a lackluster manner, both the employee and employer will likely regret the miscommunication.
  Graphic of Checkmark Working conditions. What are the days and hours of employment? Where, and under what conditions, will the work be accomplished? Are there exceptions to these conditions? For example, will a custodian be expected to arrive at school early on winter mornings to shovel snow? If so, the job description needs to state clearly that the job requires travel in inclement weather.
  Graphic of Checkmark Physical requirements. Many maintenance and custodial tasks require considerable physical strength (e.g., one might reasonably be expected to lift 50 pounds to waist level in order to dispose of the trash). The requirements of the job must be documented and included in the job description so as to meet the requirements of federal, state, and local laws designed to protect the employment opportunities of physically challenged applicants.

To comply with equal opportunity laws*, the hiring process (including advertising job openings) may neither intentionally nor inadvertently screen out disabled or minority applicants. Thus, employment standards must relate to the actual job assignments, not to beliefs, desires, or prejudices about the job. The following guidelines can help in making employment decisions.

  Graphic of Checkmark All employment requirements must be related to the duties actually required of a person in the position.
  Graphic of Checkmark Hiring standards should not automatically eliminate applicants whose speech, dress, personal habits, or lifestyle differ from those of the predominant group.
  Graphic of Checkmark Education and other requirements (e.g., licenses or certificates) must be justified by objective assessments of their relatedness to performing the job.

*Visit for more information about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and employment laws.

No matter how much forethought goes into the preparation of a job description, the text must allow some flexibility for the organization to adapt to changing circumstance. One way of accomplishing this is by including standard language in all job descriptions that reads, for example, "and other duties as may be assigned." This leaves the organization much needed flexibility in adapting staff responsibilities to meet the ongoing (and potentially changing) needs of the organization.

  Graphic of Checkmark Educational requirements. Some positions demand knowledge and skills that are best verified by the completion of certain academic work (e.g., a degree in accounting might be a job requirement for the manager of the maintenance department's budgeting and accounting).
  Graphic of Checkmark Credentials and licensure. Licenses are required to operate certain pieces of equipment (e.g., a bus driver needs a commercial drivers license), while other tasks and duties might require licensure or credentialing that is independent of equipment used (e.g., electricians).
  Graphic of Checkmark Equipment used. Some equipment works better when it is handled skillfully (e.g., a floor sweeper), whereas other equipment is dangerous to the user and others when it is not handled properly (e.g., power saws, forklifts, and chemical dispensers). Employees should be made aware of these risks and be required to demonstrate expertise before being permitted to use potentially dangerous pieces of equipment. "Demonstrating expertise" may require a license or other credential, or the employing organization may provide the required training. Even if a tool isn't particularly dangerous, the organization benefits if it is used properly so that the task gets accomplished effectively.
  Graphic of Checkmark At-will versus unionized position. Depending upon local conditions (e.g., state laws, labor agreements, and the size of the organization), some positions may be limited to personnel who either belong or do not belong to a union. If an employee does not belong to a union, he or she may be designated as an "at-will" staff member-a person who has no expectation of continued employment and may be dismissed at any time without cause or reason. The terms of employment must be spelled out clearly at the onset of the hiring process.
  Graphic of Checkmark Channels of authority. You want to know who your boss is, right? Well so does your staff. Employees should always know whom they report to and who has the authority to direct their efforts. A clear channel of authority starts with an accurate job description and an unambiguous organizational chart.
  Graphic of Checkmark Evaluation mechanisms. Just as everyone wants to know who the boss is, most people want to know how their performance will be measured. For example, will custodial staff performance be measured by spot checks of their work, by school staff customer service surveys, or some other process? The organization should clearly communicate to employees what evaluation mechanism will be used.

Selecting the Right People

The qualities of an "ideal" staff member should be identified before the interview process begins. Doing so requires an accurate assessment of the culture of the organization and the personalities of the people with whom the newly hired person must interact. Some general qualities of effective employees are described below, but many more can be developed. From a practical perspective, it may be helpful to take notes during the interview about how well the applicant matches the various qualities that have been identified as desirable in the position.

Considerations When Interviewing an Applicant

Personal Characteristics

  Graphic of Checkmark eye contact
  Graphic of Checkmark demeanor
  Graphic of Checkmark interpersonal skills
  Graphic of Checkmark appropriateness of dress
  Graphic of Checkmark work ethic

Special Qualifications

  Graphic of Checkmark work history
  Graphic of Checkmark educational background
  Graphic of Checkmark certifications and licenses
  Graphic of Checkmark professional affiliations
  Graphic of Checkmark professional interests

Technology Use

  Graphic of Checkmark energy management
  Graphic of Checkmark electronic work order system
  Graphic of Checkmark inventorying (portable devices)
  Graphic of Checkmark use of e-mail
  Graphic of Checkmark other computer skills

Leadership Potential

  Graphic of Checkmark articulated vision
  Graphic of Checkmark goal orientation
  Graphic of Checkmark consensus building
  Graphic of Checkmark communication skills
  Graphic of Checkmark personnel management

Job Growth Possibilities

  Graphic of Checkmark supervisory experience
  Graphic of Checkmark budgeting experience
  Graphic of Checkmark organized work schedules
  Graphic of Checkmark resource management
  Graphic of Checkmark staff selection

Mapping: The Art of Using Your Entire Brain
In the Staff Selection Process

Mapping is a concept that combines left and right brain perspectives on managing. The goal of mapping is to focus on the desired traits of the new employee throughout the interview process. Here's how it plays out. Say your district is
interviewing for a supervisor of maintenance. Before candidates are interviewed, write down the specific characteristics that the new supervisor of maintenance should demonstrate. Share this with the selection committee and see if they have traits or characteristics to add or delete. This process will help each member of
the selection committee to develop a clearer idea of the profile that best matches
the "ideal" candidate. Next, prepare an interview worksheet that lists the ideal characteristics. During the interviews for the position, each committee member can take notes about whether (or to what degree) the applicant exhibits the ideal characteristics. The results might very well help to inform your decision-making regarding the selection process.

See Appendix H for an example of how mapping can be used to identify
knowledge, skills, and abilities that a supervisor of maintenance should possess.

Dotting Your I's and Crossing Your T's

Image of KeysOnce a person has been identified during the interview process as the preferred candidate for a position, additional screening is required before an offer of employment can be extended. These essential tasks include:


Graphic of Checkmark

Reviewing references. While there is no need to talk to all former employers (for most positions), an applicant's most recent employment should be verified. In addition to providing information about a person's job performance, references can verify information provided by the applicant on resumes, employment applications, and during interviews. Some applicants may choose to supply character reference; these can be valuable, but should be accepted in lieu of a reference from past employers only if the person does not have prior (or recent) work experience.
  Graphic of Checkmark Performing a background check. While contacting an applicant's references is one form of checking a person's background, performing a "background check" has a very specific meaning for people who will work with or in the vicinity of children. Background checks are conducted by local, state, and national authorities to determine whether an individual has been convicted of a criminal offense. Several states require that all prospective employees in schools and school districts undergo a fingerprint-driven criminal history check. Thus, hiring committees should work with the district's Human Resources Department to ensure that all required procedures are followed in accordance with best practices and/or state and local laws as applicable.

Verifying an Applicant's Right to Work in the United States

Employers may not specify which documents they will accept from a job applicant. However, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requires that documents establish both the applicant's identity and employment eligibility. The INS recommends either ONE document that establishes both identity and employment eligibility from List A below OR ONE of the documents that establishes identity in List B AND ONE of the documents that establishes employment eligibility in List C.

List A (documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility)

  1. U.S. Passport (unexpired or expired)
  2. Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (INS Form N-560 or N-561)
  3. Certificate of Naturalization (INS Form N-550 or N-570)
  4. Unexpired foreign passport (with I-551 stamp or attached INS Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization)
  5. Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (INS Form I-151 or I-551)
  6. Unexpired Temporary Resident Card (INS Form I-688)
  7. Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (INS Form I-688A)
  8. Unexpired Re-entry Permit (INS Form I-327)
  9. Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (INS Form I-571)
  10. Unexpired Employment Authorization Document with photograph (INS Form I-688B)

List B (documents that establish identity only and must be matched to a document from List C)

  1. Driver's license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the U.S. provided it contains a photograph or
    information such as name, birth date, sex, height, eye color, and address
  2. ID card issued by federal, state, or local government agencies or entities provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, sex, height, eye color, and address
  3. School ID card with photograph
  4. Voter's registration card
  5. U.S. military card or draft record
  6. Military dependent's ID card
  7. U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine card
  8. Native American tribal document
  9. Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority

List C (documents that establish employment eligibility only and must be matched to a document from List B)

  1. U.S. social security card issued by the Social Security Administration (other than a card stating it is not valid
    for employment)
  2. Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the Dept. of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
  3. Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority or outlying possession of the U.S. bearing an official seal
  4. Native American tribal document
  5. U.S. Citizen ID Card (INS Form I-197)
  6. ID Card for Use of Resident Citizen in the U.S. (INS Form I-179)
  7. Unexpired employment authorization document issued by the INS (other than those listed in List A)

Visit for more information about the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

When Checking References

Recommended actions:

  Graphic of Checkmark Verify position title and dates of employment.
  Graphic of Checkmark Verify candidate's reasons for leaving.
  Graphic of Checkmark Ask whether candidate is eligible for rehiring.

Optional actions:
  Graphic of Checkmark Ask about candidate's attendance record.
  Graphic of Checkmark Ask about job performance specific to the position for which candidate is applying.

Prohibited actions:
  Graphic of Checkmark Do not ask questions requiring value judgments (e.g., did she have a good attitude?).
  Graphic of Checkmark Do not ask questions about an applicant's personal life (e.g., what about his family commitments?).

Due diligence must be demanded by board policies and met during the day-to-day hiring process.
Only after the selected candidate has satisfied all pre-hiring requirements should an offer of employment be made. However, the new employee still must provide certain additional information to the employer, including the following:
  Graphic of Checkmark Verifying Employment Status. Under the Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is unlawful for employers to recruit, hire, or continue to employ illegal immigrants to the United States. At the same time, it is illegal to discriminate against work-eligible individuals solely because of their country of origin. The employer must take three steps when a job applicant is hired: 1) verify the applicant's right to work in this country (within three business days of the initial date of employment); 2) attest that written proof of the right to work has been presented (by completing INS Form I-9); and 3) maintain records of steps 1 and 2.

Only after the selected candidate has satisfied all pre-hiring requirements should an offer of employment be made. However, the new employee still must provide certain additional information to the employer, including the following:

Only after the selected candidate has satisfied all pre-hiring requirements should an offer of employment be made. However, the new employee still must provide certain additional information to the employer, including the following:
  Graphic of Checkmark Personnel records. The employee must provide emergency medical information, emergency contact information, home contact information, and other personal information.
  Graphic of Checkmark Payroll records. The employee must provide a permanent mailing address, bank account routing numbers (for automatic deposit of paychecks), tax instructions (e.g., number of deductions, applicable taxing authority, etc.), beneficiary information for insurance policies, and participant information for joining medical, dental, and other insurance plans as applicable.
  Graphic of Checkmark Immunization Records. Newly hired employees may also be required to provide an immunization record and medical history to verify that they are free from certain communicable diseases. Since details of these requirements vary from state to state (and even school district to school district), be sure to consult your Human Resources staff about this topic prior to initiating the hiring process.

Policies Must Support Staff Development

  Graphic of Checkmark New employees must be trained when they join the organization.
  Graphic of Checkmark Current employees must be trained on an ongoing basis as a means of improving their job satisfaction and performance.

Who Provides Training?

  Graphic of Checkmark Other staff who have demonstrated expertise with the equipment or performing the task
  Graphic of Checkmark Managers who will supervise and evaluate the work
  Graphic of Checkmark District trainers (in large organizations)
  Graphic of Checkmark Product vendors and equipment manufacturers
  Graphic of Checkmark Vocational education staff