The current education stimulus funding represents the United States’ largest-ever investment in infrastructure upgrade opportunities for K-12 schools. (Source) These unprecedented stimulus funds can be leveraged for facility upgrades including indoor air quality improvements. As the district’s trusted facility advisor, one of the most important things you can do is help your school make the right decisions when it comes to funding district needs.
Your approach to presenting building needs, however, can make or break whether your infrastructural renewal proposal gets approved or is simply lost among the cacophony of district needs.
Here are three things to consider when looking to gain critical buy-in from superintendents and other decision makers.
1. Understand — and link to — the big picture
Align with your school’s mission and goals to help your communications resonate with decision makers. Relate everything that you and your team do back to the bigger educational picture.
Instead of “Let’s use funding to improve the building’s air quality and comfort”
- Focus on the school’s mission and its students: “Better indoor air quality and improved building comfort can help us provide the high-quality educational environment we have promised our students and our community”
2. Focus on outcomes
The most effective facility leaders rely on outcomes — using data when possible — to motivate educational leaders.
There are several outcome-driven ways to show your superintendent how proposed facility upgrades can make a difference. For example, how much would a 5 or 10 percent reduction in energy and operational costs save? Demonstrating that total savings can be effective. You also can share examples of success stories from other districts. Even better, arrange to visit some of these schools in your area with your team from Trane. (add a link here.). To learn more, you can also tap the wealth of information that the Environmental Protection Agency offers about the benefits of improving IAQ.
3. Be proactive, realistic — and prepared
Emphasize the importance of a responsive — rather than a reactive — facilities management approach. “When they interviewed me for this role, they said ‘we need someone to take a proactive look at our facility because all we are doing is reacting and putting out fires,’” said Vernal Sturgeon, director of maintenance at USD 436 Caney Valley in Caney, Kansas. Vernal’s goal is to always look ahead – and be prepared.
Aware that many needs face his district, Sturgeon regularly updates his critical facilities needs list. “Then I break things up into phases that are obtainable for our district. If, for example, it’s a $200,000 flooring project then I am going to need to break it down into manageable pieces.”
Prior to presenting needs to the superintendent or the board, he anticipates potential questions and prepares responses. “I have everything laid out – I try to have those answers knowing what they are going to ask.”
Superintendents are calling current stimulus funding a generational opportunity. Follow these tips to enhance communication with your superintendent and other school leaders to help make sure you don’t miss out on these resources.