Ken Roiland is director of buildings and grounds for Woodstock Community Unit School District 200.

What do school district facility professionals do?

In the broadest of answers: facility professionals provide safe, clean, and functional learning environments for students and staff. However, they do more than that. They also protect the largest material asset a school district owns. To properly care for the multi-million dollar investments of the community, it is essential that the individuals entrusted with their care be properly trained in maintenance operations, required inspections, and school district accounting principles. To that end, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (Illinois ASBO) has developed a new Facility Operations Program, described as “setting the industry standard for Illinois school facilities.”

The designation program sets a new, consistent standard for the development of high-quality school facilities professionals. The knowledge base lays the groundwork of what facility professionals need to know to succeed in their chosen field.

Illinois ASBO has presented a designation program for approximately 20 years. Started by a group of school district facility leaders to provide guidance on school district facility operations, it was primarily supported by half- or full-day professional development opportunities provided by Illinois ASBO’s professional development committees. The goal was for facility professionals to complete at least 67 points of program requirements focusing on facility operations. The points were awarded as three points for half-day seminar and six points for a full day.

The individuals who developed the designation program laid an excellent foundation for the next stage of professional development, the new Facility Operations Program.

If there was already a designation program provided for facility operators, why develop a completely new one? Why not just modify what already exists?

The challenge with the existing designation program is with consistency of content. For example, an individual working on a “grounds” portion of the designation may have taken a seminar on fertilization; another person may have taken one on tree and shrub care. Both are grounds-related, but they are completely different types of training. The consistency was missing.

Fast forward about 15 years. New leaders emerged and the new facility operator regional groups started popping up in the North and Northwest suburbs of Chicago. These leaders got together to discuss facility operations and support one another on a monthly basis. Through these meetings, it became evident that there was a thirst for professional growth in the facility operations field.

A group of leaders from the Lake County Facility Group and the Northern Central Illinois Facility Professionals group met to explore the possibility of Illinois ASBO collaborating with an outside organization that had a facility operations training program with industry merit and a testing feature that validated the learning. This group interviewed and reviewed programs from multiple organizations and settled on two programs offered by the Association of Facility Engineers (AFE). Those programs are the Certified Plant Maintenance Manager (CPMM) and Certified Plant Supervisor (CPS) programs. These internationally recognized programs provided excellent information to the seasoned facility operations manager. AFE requires a minimum number of years of facility management experience to join their organization.

The programs offered by AFE are excellent, but a gap still existed in supplying new and seasoned veterans of facility operations with a program that was consistent and thorough in its training in actual school district operations. Again, meetings were held with leaders in the school district facility operations field, and discussions were had on the best way to deliver a consistent form of professional development where all facility directors, new and seasoned, had the opportunity to share the same information.

It was also suggested that a new program could be developed using the Illinois Association of School Boards book, Good School Maintenance, a manual of programs and procedures for buildings, grounds and equipment, as its basis for the course offerings. Edited by James B. Fritts, the book consists of four sections: Essentials of Good School Maintenance; Cleaning and General Building Services; Maintaining the Building and Equipment; and School Grounds and Maintenance.

The Facility Operations Programs is comprised of the four sections of Good School Maintenance, and the manual is used as the source material for instruction. The four courses of professional development are:

  • Essentials of Facilities Management,
  • Essentials of Maintenance Operations,
  • Essentials of Grounds Operations, and
  • Essentials of Custodial Operations.

The program was built so that designations can be earned in maintenance operations, grounds operations, or custodial operations. Each person wishing to complete a designation completes Essentials of Facility Management prior to earning their full designation, but they have the opportunity to specialize in only their desired field. For example, the custodial supervisor who only wants to expand his or her knowledge in custodial operations can choose to take only the Essentials of Custodial Operations along with the Essentials of Facilities Management to earn their designation for the completion of the training.

Individuals who choose to take all of the training earn the designation of Facilities Operations Management.

Currently the Illinois ASBO plan is to offer the Essentials of Facilities Management twice per year and the other programs one time per year. This way individuals can earn their designations within a one-year period. This is a marked improvement from the original designation program, where it could take up to five years to complete that designation, depending on the availability of professional development opportunities.

October 2016 was the first offering of Essentials of Facilities Management, and in December 2016 the first group earned the designation in Maintenance Operations with the completion of the Essentials of Maintenance Operations. January 2017 is the offering for the Essentials of Grounds Operations, while Essentials of Custodial Operations will be offered in April 2017.

More information on the Facilities Management Designation Program can be found at