entucky School Advocate
In Conversation With features an interview between a leader or figure involved in public education and a representative of the Kentucky School Advocate.
Steve Griebe has been executive director of Kentucky School Plant Management Association (KSPMA) since 2013. Before that he owned a company that provided education and training to the private sector and was asked to become executive director of KSPMA six months after being hired to rewrite its certification program.
Q. Can you briefly talk about the association’s role and who can join it?
A. KSPMA helps facility managers understand their role and function. There are many aspects to this job, and a lot of people transition to it from other education administration jobs like principal or superintendent. Back in 1989 when the association first started, there wasn’t a good resource to help people understand the role. One of the most important things we offer is networking with other facility managers. You can share your problems, ideas and solutions with other facility managers. Any school district or private school can join; we added colleges and universities about five years ago. We also have vendor members. We currently have 62 school district members and the number is growing.
Q. You mention networking. What are some other benefits KSPMA offers?
A. We have two trade shows a year. At this fall’s trade show we brought in 86 vendors and next year we’re probably going up to 100. Facility managers can see all these new products and services and cutting edge technology.
Q. KSPMA also offers Certified Facility Manager training. Why is that important for school districts?
A. The online course is about 40 hours of curriculum and helps the manager understand the total process of doing their job. There are discussion boards, help keys and integrated videos. It takes about 60-65 hours to complete. It’s especially helpful when a district is planning to build or renovate in how to complete paperwork required by KDE and understanding compliance with OSHA and ADA requirements. We also offer a Local Planning Committee facilitator service for the districts. If they don’t want to do it internally, they can outsource it to us. With these building and renovation projects, there’s a whole process to follow, and our facilitator will make sure that all the t's are crossed and i's are dotted.
Q. There’s also a training program for other building maintenance staff?
A. Yes, the General Maintenance Certification course, which is mostly for lead supervisors and lead custodians. That online course is about 20 hours of curriculum. At last count, we had 174 people in this program.
Q. Some school boards have created some incentives for maintenance staff to take advanced training. What are some of the approaches that have worked well?
A. They give the staff a stipend. If a staff member completes the course and maintains certification, they are eligible for certain percent increase in pay per year. But the districts decide what they want to do. Usually there’s a stipulation that the employee has to maintain the certification to keep the raise.
Q. Statewide conferences are important, but does KSPMA also take its training and networking out into the state?
A. Yes, we typically have regional meetings four times a year. These are luncheons so people have time to network and talk about hot topics. We address those topics and help answer questions. Four years ago we started a maintenance and custodial conference that goes all across the state. We did 12 locations and had over 900 attendees this year; it’s a big hit because it doesn’t cost our members anything. We do all the safety training that KDE and OSHA requires. We have a food trailer with a couple of grills and usually grill out burgers and hot dogs and feed everybody lunch.
Several vendors are sponsors and travel with us. When we first started, we did two locations; next year we have a request for between 14 and 16 locations. Each attendee receives a certificate. A lot of these people are underappreciated so to provide this training and a certificate can mean a lot to them and build pride in their work.
Q. Years ago, federal stimulus funding helped create a school energy managers program, which helped districts reduce their energy expenses. That program is gone; is this something KSPMA is looking at as a way to help districts keep their energy usage and costs down?
A. We have several energy programs. We partner with Energy Optimizers, which has some great programs and people who can help any district that is interested in saving energy. Energy savings is really about education. If you can help educate people about why you’re turning the lights off and why you’re using technology and devices to help control that cost, it has a significant savings across the board for that school district.
Q. This year your conference theme was facility safety and security. What did that mean as far as the conference sessions and agenda?
A. Our president for the 2021-22 school year, John Campbell, who was facilities and maintenance supervisor at Floyd County Schools before he retired at the end of the year, had made safety and security his big push. He wanted facility managers to be more aware of things they should be doing and what resources are available to help them.
State School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox was scheduled to speak but had a personal emergency so he couldn’t attend. The state fire marshal’s office was there to talk about what they had observed in their auditing process and things that need to be addressed and fixed. There were breakout sessions that related to annual inspections inside facilities, such as kitchen extinguishing systems, fire extinguishers, door security and door access.
Q. Was there still discussion of school safety and security?
A. Yes, facility managers shared what they had discovered during their audits and things they could improve on. When it comes to school safety and security there is a lot to consider. It actually starts with things like landscaping, access control, personality and behaviors that are observed. There is a lot you have to be aware of and address.
Q. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing school district facility managers now?
A. Funding. With buildings there is a life expectancy and when schools need renovations it is sometimes hard to ask for or get authorization and funding needed to renovate or build new schools. Another big problem right now is lead time for materials needed for construction projects.
Q. KSPMA recently moved into KSBA’s headquarters in Frankfort. Can you tell us about this move?
A. We operate on a tight budget as we receive no grants or federal funding and rely on funding from membership fees and vendors’ support at conferences. So, since I began as director, our office had been in my spare bedroom. The move to KSBA’s office gives us a central location. We used to have our meetings at hotels or in district members’ schools, so now we have a place for members and our board to meet. The KSBA staff has been so helpful. There are other benefits, like the on-site print shop, so we no longer have to outsource printing for needs.
Q. Tell me about your scholarship program for students who are interested in trade-related fields.
A. We have two types of scholarships. The first is for any eligible graduating high school senior from a member district who is going into a field related to facilities or facilities management. It is a $1,500 scholarship renewable up to two times. The second is for any district member or vendor member that wants one of its employees to further their education. This $1,500 scholarship could be used at a trade school, a college or a university. We’ve given out about 100 scholarships since the program started in 2002. Last year we gave out seven.
Q. You said earlier that membership in KSPMA is growing?
A. Yes, every year, as more people learn about us. It costs $450 for a district to join, and with that, they get access to everything we offer, plus the facility manager or a designee can attend all our events for no additional fee including the conference, which is normally $200 per attendee. There is also a conference discount if a member district wants to send additional people.