Monday, 30 October 2017

Managing a school while managing renovations! Almost an impossible task!

Since early July 2017, Pinelands North has had a company employed by the WCED to do scheduled maintenance in their schools, on our premises. First let it be known that we are thrilled that this has happened! I have been principal for more than twenty years at this school, and during this time we have never had this happen before. So, we are not complaining!
However, I have been reflecting on the journey we have taken together, and are still journeying together, and probably will still do into the new year! I would like to place on record, first and foremost, that the Governing Body of Pinelands North made an amazing decision in 2008. We decided to appoint a Business Manager to assist the school principal, after realizing that the principal's job was changing so rapidly that there was no way on earth a principal could manage all the business processes of the school too. We have never regretted making this decision! Our finances have completely turned around and, as principal, I have assistance in all the day-to-day facets of management that an educationalist doesn't need to worry about.
This renovation project is a perfect example! Our Business Manager is able to focus on who is doing what, and when, and how will we move smoothly onto the next phase, while the principal has been able to focus on the staff and pupil needs. We have been asked to ponder on paint colours, on the measurements of windows, on how the new toilets will look but also on how we will manage a school returning after the holiday, with only 2 'boys' toilets still functioning!
And yes, we have had a plan for every day from July until 16 December! The reality though is that in a school that has had superficial maintenance done on it, windows don't close if you paint them for the twentieth time, and paint does start peeling off doors if you put another coat on top of twenty others! Each time this happens, it sets the whole plan back a few days, no matter how much planning preceded the problem!
And then we have parents who become unnecessarily concerned about smells in classrooms which have been closed for a weekend......Heath and safety has been our prime concern at all times. The most 'unsafe' renovations have happened over weekends and holidays, while the school community isn't around.
The workmen have now become our friends, and their supervisors our confidantes. Between us we are managing a building site on which we have 450 pupils daily, and many staff. And yes, in the European Union countries they would have closed the school so that the renovations could be done. At Pinelands North we carry on with teaching, assessments, break time play and sports events. The Business Manager manages the renovation plan and the principal manages the usual school plan - together achieving more than could be achieved in countries just over the waters!

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