Imagine having to take care of a 8,500-square-foot building teeming with 300 elementary school students. Add two playgrounds, a wooded 162-acre campus, high-tech HVAC, lighting, security, and fire programs, the occasional vomit on the floor, and lots of teachers, parents, and visitors. Bruce Boyd, facility manager of The Rashi School in Dedham, admits that he sometimes loses sleep because of his many responsibilities. Is the auditorium ready for a scheduled performance? Have the handrails been sanitized? Is the traffic flow for pick-up still working?
But to children at reform Jewish K-8 independent school, Boyd is the School Dude. That also happens to be the name of the software program he uses to keep track of the building equipment and “all the nuts and bolts,” said Boyd, 64, of Hanson. He refers to the school as if it’s a personal possession – “my building” – and he is meticulously organized. He even color coded the mops (green for kitchen and dining room, blue for hallways and classrooms, yellow for bathroom) to avoid cross contamination.
Running the operations of a K-8 school goes beyond equipment maintenance and janitorial services. Because of recent school shootings around the country, he’s also charged with helping to ensure the children and staff are safe. The building is monitored with security cameras, and there are other security measures that he’s reluctant to disclose. The space Boyd is responsible for is relatively small – most facility managers maintain about one million square feet – according to a leading facility manager association, but it’s no less daunting. Rashi is the first school that Boyd has maintained, with the two other buildings being manufacturing facilities, but the protocol is the same. There’s “a place for everything and everything in its place,” Boyd says. The Globe spoke with him about his career as a facilities manager.
“Most of my career has been in manufacturing. The only similarities between all of the buildings I’ve run is that all were brand new when I started.
“A school’s environment is so important in the development of children. I’m not just talking about being clean, but also being neat, organized, bright, and cheery. Sustainability also carries more importance now than ever in facilities management because it’s become so distinctly connected to the bottom line. My efforts in sustainability not only maintain our building’s environmental standards, but they can also reduce costs and help establish a positive reputation.
“My last job was managing Boston Acoustic in Peabody, and when they were bought out by a larger conglomerate and moved to New Jersey over a decade ago, I oversaw the packing of equipment and machinery, including complex assembly lines and automation machinery that made woofers and tweeters. I received a good severance package, so after all the crates had been shipped out, I had some time to sit and think about what sort of facility I wanted to run next. I’m a professional carpenter by trade and have always been interested in the way buildings work and how to take care of them. When I saw an opening eight years ago for the Rashi School, which was opening a brand new space in Dedham, I applied for the facility manager’s job.
“You’d be surprised at all the behind-the-scenes work involved in operating a building. I remember when I first went into Rashi’s front office, with built-in desks and separating partitions that were actually way too tall for a reception area. I cut them down and refinished them to a lower level. Now they’re the perfect height. That’s just an example of finding a solution, whether it’s furniture, equipment, tools, or cleaning products.
“Facilities managers such as myself need to look outside the box, thinking about the environment that we’d like to create and knowing how to do it. The standards that I’ve set make for nonstop care of the building, from the roof down to the lower level and everything in between.
“Some schools have had some really rough times, with the entire system shut down with some sort of epidemic. How does that happen? But I do admit that children and messes go hand-in-hand. Food is usually one of the worst culprits. It always seem to fall off the table, onto the floor, and then get tracked down the corridor on many little feet. Cleaning up dropped rice is not easy.”Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.