The Durham Public Schools (DPS) maintenance department has an efficiency problem.
Several spots at Riverside flooded during Hurricane Florence, but a slow response to repair requests suggests the problems have been here for a long time.
For weeks, engineering teacher Adam Davidson has been trying to get DPS to check the dust content in his room. He would do it himself, but DPS maintenance staff keeps taking the engineering department’s ladders without his permission and then leaving campus with them. He has also been requesting work orders to fix the water that leaks into his room every time it rains. After Florence, there was a large pool of water that stretched the length of Davidson’s room.
“The system is very slow,” said Davidson, who teaches Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).
“DPS keeps fixing the symptoms, not the problems,” said Davidson.
And he’s not the only one.
Engineering teacher Conner Bolen, who teaches IED and Principles of Engineering (POE), has broken blinds in his classroom.
“I’d be surprised if my blinds get fixed before second semester,” says Bolen.
Many teachers at Riverside have a story about how they tried to get something fixed via a work order for DPS. Many of those never got completed or, if they did, DPS took an exceedingly long time to actually complete them.
“They have to do better,” said assistant principal Kadeidra Carr referring to how DPS handles work orders.
When Riverside’s own custodial staff cannot fix a problem in the building, Carr files a work order. A teacher emails or texts her about a problem in their room, or near their room, and she submits it in a system called Teamworks. Problems they encounter may include leaks, air conditioning/pollution, or rodents.
Carr files 15-20 work orders per day. After she files them, it takes DPS one to two days to respond to her requests, and the requests get added to a dashboard where they are ranked by order of importance.
These rankings are controlled by DPS, and Carr has little say in the matter. If a teacher’s request is not considered important, such as a missing floor tile, it may take years to be fixed.
DPS maintenance prioritizes safety hazards. Those would include a hallway flooding or a ceiling falling down. What they will deal with immediately are requests that, for example, include part of the ceiling falling down.
Carr wishes DPS felt more urgency when addressing these requests.
“DPS doesn’t understand the day to day life in schools,” she said, “I wish their follow-up and follow-through were better.”
Years earlier, Davidson asked maintenance to replace a few of the ceiling tiles in his old room, because there were visible water stains on them. It took over six years to get them replaced.
“Problems aren’t problems until they’re crises,” said Davidson.
According to the maintenance department, they have about 70 employees and receive about 150 to 200 work orders a day. That means each employee must complete 10 work orders a week to keep up with current demand.“We have enough people to fix the urgent things, but we don’t have enough funds or manpower to accommodate the all of the routine problems.” said a maintenance department employee.
Additionally, the lock on the back door in Davidson’s room has broken twice in three weeks. The first time he requested the lock to be fixed, it took maintenance 2 days to fix it. The second time it broke, the maintenance workers were off duty and, after they fixed the lock, they took the only key with them and had to send someone else to take it back to Davidson later.
According to Davidson, there are thousands of dollars worth of equipment in that one room.