DCSD Maintenance Department to get overhaul

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

During a special-called meeting Aug. 28, the Darlington County School District Board of Education got a first-hand account of the inner workings of the district’s Operations and Maintenance Department. Ervin McElveen, Director of Operations and Maintenance, gave a presentation and then took questions from board members.

The district currently employees 30 maintenance workers and 94 custodians who maintain the grounds at 24 locations and the nearly 2 million square feet inside of district schools.

McElveen said that his office works hard to ‘provide a clean and safe environment throughout the Darlington County School District for every student, every day.’

He also said that while he is trying to shift from status quo maintenance to preventative work, he is anticipating some challenges in the near future, including the fact that one-third of his maintenance department is eligible for retirement in the next 3-5 years. In the next decade, that number will increase to 60 percent.

The biggest challenge in that, McElveen said, is that he is unable to hire anyone before a retiree leaves.

“A lot of knowledge has walked out the doors,” McElveen said.

One example of just that is the fact that the district has a work order system that no one currently employed with the district knows how to operate.

Board chairman Jamie Morphis said that the meeting and presentation were necessary because the board has to understand where the maintenance costs are coming from.

“We have a ton of maintenance issues on the capital plan,” Morphis said. “That’s not your fault, that’s not what we are saying at all, but inevitably that is what has happened over time because we didn’t have a plan. Painting. When has painting turned into a capital project? Well, when you haven’t done it in upteen years and you don’t have the money and you don’t have the staff.”

Boardmember Wanda Hassler expressed concern over the district’s agreement with education consultant Melvin Smoak, who appeared before the board in April to talk about drawing up a detailed custodial plan. Smoak has since been hired by the district and, according to Chief Financial Office Ashley Smith, he has been paid “$5,700 so far.”

“I am very concerned about this custodial plan, this agreement, that we entered into with Mr. Smoak,” Hassler said. “Is this a one-time evaluation and now he has given us the plan and this is it or what is that? Is (the $5,700) just for the stuff he has completed up until this point?”

Hassler also questioned what references were used for Smoak that allowed him to be hired by the district.

“Where has he implemented this plan before where we can get references from to make sure that we know what we are getting,” Hassler asked. “Is there another school system that he has used this plan? It seems an overkill on some very obvious things. To tell me that I need six minutes to clean a toilet or twelve minutes to sweep a room; you sweep a room until its clean and then you move on.”

Smith could not give Hassler any specific school districts that Smoak had completed similar plans for. Interim superintendent Bill Boyd said that Smoak had done work in Marlboro County before.

Boardmember Dr. Thelma Dawson challenged Hassler’s assertion that you work until something is clean and then move on to the next project.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Dawson said. “You have to give these people (custodians) some organization, which we haven’t had. That is why some of the areas are not where they are supposed to be.”

McElveen had several requests of the board, including purchasing iPads so that work orders can be completed and closed out on the job site, instead of requiring a lot of paperwork afterward. He also requested that GPS systems be installed in the maintenance vehicles and that a new work order system is ordered or someone is trained to use the current one.

McElveen will appear before the board again in three months to give an update on changes being implemented.

Author: Duane Childers

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