T he maintenance department of the nation’s sixth largest school district, The School Board of Broward County (SBBC), is charged with maintaining facilities and minor capital projects for 238 schools. With over 2,500 trades, custodial, grounds, management and clerical personnel, SBBC is striving for world-class maintenance service. Portolan associates, along with their partner, Grau & Company, completed the analysis and change implementation process of the maintenance department of the Broward County Schools.

The Problem

The reputation of the SBBC maintenance department needed improvement among board members, administrators and the general public. Processes, communication, budgeting and system technology were deficient in the department operations. Because of the immense organizational structure, leadership and accountability were also a challenge. Some of the challenges facing the department were:

The Operations Services Committee of the Broward County Schools selected The Portolan Group and Grau & Company over five other companies to conduct an intense analysis of the operations of the maintenance department. “We are pleased to have been chosen over such nationally known and prestigious companies as KPMG and Ernst & Young,” said Portolan’s President Terry Burgess. “We believe it is the combination of our physical plant management experience, together with the accounting expertise of Grau & Company that made the difference.”

The Solution

Portolan provided an in-depth assessment of all components of the maintenance function. The project team developed a methodology to assess 112 schools. The team interviewed over 300 staff members. The assessment provided a baseline for developing a long-range strategic maintenance plan and reorganization.

The Results

The Broward assessment began in January 2004. It resulted in a complete reorganization of the district’s maintenance operations. A physical plant operations division has been created composed of over 1,300 employees (not including site-based) working in four departments: maintenance, custodial and grounds, energy management and facilities support services. Almost 140 new trades and custodial positions were added within existing budgets. This new division is responsible for the maintenance of over 36,000,000 square feet of schools and 5000 acres of grounds and athletic fields. The entire reorganization was implemented on a cost neutral basis. The results of this reorganization have been: increased accountability, labor utilization and fiscal management. The new division is being phased in over a three-year timeframe. Mr. James Notter, Superintendent of Schools says; “This is the largest reorganization in the history of this district.” Portolan is proud to have been renewed by the school board on three separate occasions to help implement major change in this department. Following the reorganization, the Plant Operations Division won the School District’s Sterling Award for management excellence and represented the District at the statewide competition. The energy management department that was created by the Portolan assessment recently won the prestigious US Energy Association Public Sector Award for excellence in energy management and was nominated by Florida Power & Light for the globally recognized Platts award for energy conservation. Finally, the District’s Operational model was recently shared with Chinese counterparts on a recent 2 week Facilities Management delegation to China.

The success of the reorganization created momentum that has led to further cost saving initiatives and efficiency gains driven by internal staff recommendations. “The reorganization’s success led to a culture change that has made it OK to find better ways to do our jobs and ultimately, has created a better physical learning environment in our schools. The “status quo” mentality is no longer acceptable.”, says Tom Lindner, Executive Director of the newly created Physical Plant Operations Division. He also states, “Portolan & Grau planted the seeds and provided all the necessary care and feeding to ensure proper growth. Now we are tasked with sustaining that growth. We are doing just that!”