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Director of Master Planning and Engineering

  • Industry: Facilities Management
  • Location: Massachusetts - Ashburnham
  • Client: Independent School
  • Search ID: 19-0502-07

Cushing Academy has retained Helbling to conduct an executive search to secure a Director of Master Planning and Engineering (DMPE). 

Position Summary

Cushing Academy is seeking a Director of Master Planning and Engineering (DMPE). This is an excellent opportunity for an individual with proven strategic leadership abilities and strong managerial, technical, planning, and communication skills to participate in shaping the future of a dynamic independent school. The DMPE will engage in complex work and see the impact of that work, both immediately and long-term, in the lives of students, employees, and the surrounding community.

The DMPE will oversee the activities of approximately 26 full-time and part-time employees in the facilities department. The position will report to the Chief Financial Officer, work closely with the Plant and Property Committee of the Board of Trustees, be responsible for managing the development and implementation of the property master plan, oversee ongoing construction projects, and oversee the day to day operations of the facilities department. Cushing’s campus, located at 39 School Street, Ashburnham, MA 01430, consists of 162 acres, 49 buildings, and 6 athletic fields.

Candidates are expected to exhibit a deep appreciation of Cushing Academy's educational mission, goals, and community and will embody the integrity, leadership, openness to learning, and service to others that are consistent with the School's core tenets. The ideal candidate will have significant experience in education, either at the secondary school level, in higher education, or nonprofit settings. A degree in Engineering, Architecture, or Facilities Management, or graduate degree in a related field is strongly preferred.

Essential Functions

  • Serve as the Chief Financial Officer’s key advisor and partner with him for all campus-related matters.
  • Regularly evaluate and review systems and buildings such that they remain in good working condition.
  • Ensure a neat and clean appearance of the Academy’s property and within all campus buildings.
  • Identify, prioritize, and oversee major capital and operating budgets.
  • Develop and manage the annual facilities budget and support the team in making appropriate short- and long-term spending trade-offs.
  • Continually develop and follow an annual maintenance schedule for equipment, dormitory renewal, among other items.
  • Work closely with other departments to execute campus-wide events (e.g., graduation, reunion weekend).
  • Drive the identification and execution of major sustainability initiatives.
  • Provide an effective 24/7/365 on-call service related to all facilities issues.
  • Engage, develop, and delegate effectively to an experienced and motivated team.
  • Maintain a customer service orientation, including effective, constant communication with key stakeholders.
  • Understand what it means to be a part of a tight-knit community, including taking into account the needs of all key constituencies and managing faculty, staff, students, and parent expectations.
  • Manage and oversee all major capital projects; collaborate and communicate effectively with the CFO and the Plant and Property Committee, as well as with on-site construction teams, architects, engineers, etc.

Major Duties and Responsibilities

  • The development, implementation, and ongoing administrative oversight of facilities planning, policy, operations, staff, and financial resources within the facilities organization so as to effectively and efficiently provide the services required to support the Academy’s built environment, natural resources, programs, and services.
  • Develop, recommend, and implement along other administrators including the Board of Trustees and others as appropriate, short- and long-range facilities plans and programs, including all aspects of physical plant capital improvements, design, construction, renovation and major repair / reconstruction requirements; space administration; maintenance and repair programs; energy conservation; and campus landscaping, including parking and access.
  • Coordinate and oversee the administration of the negotiation, bid, and implementation processes for construction, renovation, and service contracts as required to meet the goals of the Academy and to maintain compliance with applicable codes and regulations. With other appropriate administrators, serve as liaison with the outside agencies with regard to facility management and administration.
  • With appropriate facilities managers, oversee and ensure all technical and administrative aspects of campus maintenance services, including all interior and exterior maintenance of buildings, grounds, landscape, and athletic facilities.
  • Develop and implement, or recommend policies and procedures for facilities and utilities systems management, maintenance and operation, major repair, replacement, and upgrading.  Carry out a computerized preventative maintenance program for facilities and related equipment; provide routine and emergency maintenance, service calls and maintenance service requests; and complete major maintenance and repair projects.
  • In conjunction with other administrators as appropriate, prepare the annual budget consistent with available resources for campus facilities; evaluate and ensure the efficient operation of the department, controlling operation expenses at a minimum level consistent with sound maintenance practices. Develop and recommend policies, planning guidelines, and procedures for the development of the Academy’s operating and capital budget program, and manage the program through the process of development, approval, and implementation preserving and protecting facility capital investments subject to available resources.
  • In cooperation with plant managers, provide administrative and technical direction to the facilities department so as to maintain a highly trained and motivated staff - overseeing the selection, appropriate and timely training, performance management, promotion, and position changes for departmental staffing; and assuring consistent opportunity and treatment of the employees engaged in the provision of facilities services. Discuss, plan, and delegate major project assignments to supervisory staff, determining building and maintenance priorities that are of significant scope. Balance workload demands within budget availability to determine the numbers and skills required to complete annual maintenance, construction, and special repair programs.
  • Facilitate and maintain positive and productive, internal and external customer relationships to achieve the effective utilization and coordination of all facilities resources in meeting the school’s goals and objectives. Determine what work can be accomplished with in-house forces and recommend contracting overload.  Administer, inspect, and accept maintenance or service work performed by contract. Approve payments of contracts and invoices.
  • Budgeting responsibilities including managing costs within the approved budget; developing and monitoring the annual operating and capital budgets; utilizing a competitive RFP process for all vendor contracts to ensure fiscal responsibility; and reviewing and approving invoices to confirm that payments are made in accordance with contractual agreements.
  • Project management responsibilities, including managing external and internal labor and vendors; selecting, retaining, and managing all facilities and building independent contractors and consultants as required to improve resource management, performance, and cost management; working effectively with town, county, and state officials to obtain proper licensing, permits, and certificates.

About Cushing

Cushing Academy ( was chartered in 1865 as a coeducational institution supported by the estate of Thomas Parkman Cushing, a native of Ashburnham, MA who found his fortune working as a merchant in Boston.  Thomas Cushing detailed in his Will that the Academy would serve both male and female students. Originally planned as separate campuses, with a "suitable library" and "ample grounds for the exercise and recreation of the pupils of each school", when plans were drawn to construct the school, the funds did not exist to create two campuses.  As a result, the singular co-educational campus that exists today was created. The institution holds fast to the ideals of Thomas Parkman Cushing, with the vision that Cushing Academy will be recognized as a unique educational setting whose faculty, staff, and facilities exist to nurture the optimal growth of students with a broad range of talents, abilities, and interests, in an environment that promotes intellectual challenge, the arts, athletics, and culture. Cushing Academy’s mission is to develop curious, creative, and confident learners and leaders.
Cushing Academy serves a diverse student population and is committed to equality in education. Widely recognized as a leader in educational innovation, Cushing's real strength is in the commitment of every teacher to the success of every student. As pioneers in academic support, the Academy strives to meet students where they are and provide them with a powerful toolkit for academic success. Of the diverse 400 student population representing 25 states and 30 countries; 22 percent of students are enrolled in academic support programs; 99 percent of students attend a four year college or university; and of those students 75 percent attend a private institution. Cushing has an internationally renowned ESL Program providing 360-degree support, which is tailored to students' needs, and prepares them to take full advantage of the curriculum. The resulting community is vibrant, accepting, and inclusive. The expansive and renowned visual and performing arts offerings attract aspiring and accomplished artists to Cushing, while at the same time, the Academy's "give it a try" philosophy allows the entire community to explore creativity and discover new talents. With 23 teams in 14 sports, Cushing offers opportunities for athletes at every level of experience, and thrilling competition that binds students and alumnae together as Penguins for life. In the past 17 years, Cushing teams have won 25 NEPSAC championships in 6 sports.
Within a diverse school atmosphere and rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Cushing Academy aims to cultivate in its students a passion for learning and a respect for others.  Cushing Academy exists for students and develops curious, creative, and confident learners and leaders.  The Portrait of a Graduate details and supports Cushing's mission to educate the mind, shape the character, nurture the creativity, and foster the well-being of each student.  This portrait guides and informs all aspects of school life.  A Cushing graduate learns, lives, and leads with ideals in their personal intellectual community, and ethical journey.
Cushing students are well prepared for higher education and service to society by a talented, committed, and engaged faculty.  Students share a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio in the classroom.  Of the Academy's 55 teaching faculty members, 70 percent have advanced degrees, including seven doctorates.  Seventy percent of faculty members reside in dormitories serving as dorm parents or live in homes on campus.  Because Cushing faculty members teach, coach, advise, and live in the dormitories, they develop nurturing relationships with students that extend far beyond the classroom.
Great teaching, enriched by an amazing breadth of offerings, allows every student to discover a passion for learning and build skills for success in college and beyond. Cushing students choose from over 130 courses and 27 advanced / AP classes in various departments including: Classical and Modern Languages, Computer Science, English, History and Social Science, Mathematics, Performing Arts, Science, and Visual Arts. The Fisher-Watkins Library is an established leader in the use of digital devices and electronic content in secondary education. An early adopter of digitized materials, the library's digital collections include over 24 million items drawn from academic journals, eBooks, image and film libraries, and other educational content.
Tuition, room and board for the 2019-20 academic year is $63,700, and $43,400 for day students; for fiscal year 2019, 27 percent of students received need-based financial aid. The Watkins Scholar Program, established by the E. G. Watkins Family Foundation, awards full, need-based scholarships to 20 high-achieving, domestic students who possess a love of learning, strong leadership skills, and a desire to contribute significantly to Cushing Academy. Each recipient of the Watkins scholarship is provided with a full four-year scholarship and is required to maintain a strong academic standing.  

Cushing Academy is currently experiencing a campus renaissance, building new facilities and renovating others across the 162 acre campus.  Renovations of an additional dorm, as well as the dining commons and the student life center, were completed in 2019. These new facilities will join the recently built Watkins Field House, a 30,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, $12 million athletic center, which was dedicated in fall 2016 and two new $24 million dormitories with 90 single bedrooms. The Director of Master Planning and Engineering will work closely with general contractors, architects and other trades on significant building projects, including the construction of a new 60-student dormitory which is scheduled to break ground in June of 2019.

Honors & Accolades

In 2018, after a decennial review, Cushing was granted continued accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), defined by NEASC as “a system of accountability that is ongoing, voluntary, and comprehensive in scope."  The Academy has received honors and accolades in:
  • Performing and Visual Arts
  • STEM
  • Athletics
  • Student Initiatives
  • Outreach to the Community
Recognition includes:
Watkins Field House Awards
Cushing Academy is located in Ashburnham in Central Massachusetts, 60 miles from Boston and a 40 minute drive from Worcester, providing easy access to city amenities. Ashburnham has several lakes, including Lake Wampanoag, Sunset Lake, Lake Watatic, Wallace Pond, and the Upper & Lower Naukeag Lake. Conservation land includes Ashburnham State Forest, as well as two smaller areas which are parts of Mount Watatic State Wildlife Management Area and a portion of the High Ridge Wildlife Management Area.


  • Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Architecture, Construction Management, or related field is required. 
  • Master’s degree is preferred.


  • Minimum of ten (10) years of experience working in a complex, service-intensive environment is required. Professional experience working in an educational campus setting is preferred.  

Personal Qualities

  • High energy.
  • A sense of urgency to manage change.
  • Strategic thinker who sees the larger picture.
  • Strong board presence.
  • Ability to understand and embrace Cushing Academy's mission, vision, and values.
  • Ability to balance and prioritize the needs of the school.
  • Ability to manage and mentor staff.
  • Process-oriented.
  • Strong people skills.
  • Strong, team player.
  • Fair, but demanding; a willingness to say "no".
  • Committed to diversity and inclusion practices.
  • Excellent communications skills.
  • Evident integrity.

Search Consultant: Joe Wargo

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