Director of Buildings, Grounds, & Campus Operations
for a preparatory school founded in the early 1800s

Representing a preparatory school, Helbling worked closely with the school's Headmaster in securing a Director of Buildings, Grounds, & Campus Operations. A significant role within the school's structure, the Director's responsibilities are broad and encompass strategic planning, capital asset planning and construction, campus maintenance, public safety, sustainability, energy management, and fleet management. The selected candidate came from a prominent university, and she has positively impacted the school's facilities department in a short period of time. Her greatest achievements have been adding structure to the school's facilities department, implementing a computerized maintenance management system, and taking the school's approach to facilities from reactive to proactive.

Our client is a renowned preparatory school that was established in the early 1800s and encompasses 350 acres of grounds and more than 1M square feet of space in 120 buildings. Due to the fact that many of its facilities are outdated, it had a serious need to address deteriorating faculty residences, administrative buildings, and athletic facilities.

The Director of Buildings, Grounds, & Campus Operations (Director) is a significant role within the school’s structure because it serves as the school’s senior manager of all activity and resources that are devoted to the physical development, operation, and maintenance of the school and its grounds, as well as the safety of its people, operations, and assets. The Director’s responsibilities are broad and encompass strategic planning, capital asset planning and construction, campus maintenance, public safety, sustainability, energy management, and fleet management.

One of the dynamics of the search was that the school has a comprehensive green initiative that focuses on green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and land and water management. The Director guides this program by ensuring that the school remains a leader in environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Our client was seeking an individual for the role who could cultivate, lead, and continuously manage a positive work culture that emphasizes excellence and high standards, values steady improvement, and builds mutual respect within the school community and the broader community outside of its gates.

For this assignment, we worked closely with the school’s Headmaster and Chief Financial Officer. In our initial discussions, they expressed their objectives of hiring an individual for the role and the experience desired in ideal candidates. They sought an individual who was not only qualified in their experience with facilities management capital projects but who was also highly skilled in personnel management, budgeting, strategic facilities planning, and project oversight.

To ensure that we would identify all potential candidates with the applicable experiences and skills, Helbling primarily focused on identifying professionals from other boarding schools, colleges and universities, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical firms, and cultural facilities in the Northeast. We targeted professionals who had at least 10 years of experience in facilities management, 5 of which were at a senior level.

The candidate selected by our client was Director of Mechanical Maintenance and Planning with a prominent university. In her position, she was directly responsible for the oversight of the maintenance and planning departments, which care for 9M SF within 700 facilities across 5 campuses. She is heavily experienced in all aspects of administration including human resources, budget, finance and procurement functions, space and facilities management, policy analysis and planning, organizational analysis and planning, statistical reporting, and strategic planning.

In follow-up conversations with the school’s Headmaster, she has expressed that the placed professional is a collaborative leader, and has demonstrated her willingness to gather and implement others’ ideas along with her own to develop the best solutions and generate the most effective results. She has excellent communication skills with all levels of the school’s staff and management, and is well respected by her colleagues.

Her most significant achievement thus far has been her success with adding a significant amount of structure to the facilities management department. She implemented a new computerized maintenance management system, which allows her team to better prioritize the maintenance tasks that should be undertaken first. The system also enables the school (for the first time in its history) to track preventive maintenance, such as scheduling repairs and upkeep, and to ensure problems are identified before they become emergencies. As a result, she has transitioned the facilities management department’s approach from reactive to proactive.

Additionally, she is in the process of instituting a formal annual performance review process so everyone in her department has a clear understanding of what is expected of them and how they are performing in relation to those expectations.

View PDF
The secured candidate has had many accomplishments during her tenure but her most significant achievement thus far has been her success with adding a significant amount of structure to the facilities management department. She implemented a new computerized maintenance management system, which allows her team to better prioritize the maintenance tasks that should be undertaken first. The system also enables the school (for the first time in its history), to track preventive maintenance, such as scheduling repairs and upkeep, to ensure problems are identified before they become emergencies. 
Tom Helbling, President

Learn about Helbling’s search process