BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With students gone for the summer, the Anthony Wayne Local Schools buildings may look quiet, but don’t be fooled, said operations director Neil Raymond.
“Summer and spring break is our time to get the bulk of our work done. We’ll be painting, replacing ceiling tiles and flooring and doing lighting upgrades, as well as some special projects like a new soccer scoreboard and replacing old heating piping in some older buildings.
“We’ll also be doing a deep cleaning of the buildings and assessing the furniture, and we’ll be mowing and weeding daily and maintaining athletic fields,” Raymond said. “When school is in session, we’re maintaining what we have and keeping it operational. We don’t tackle larger, more time-consuming projects when the kids are in school if we can avoid it.”
Hired in February to replace Matt Dick, who retired after 25 years as operations director, Ray-mond said he’s gained an appreciation for just how many aspects of the district the Operations Department touches – from shipping and receiving and custodial work to major projects, safety inspections and purchasing supplies for the district.
It was during the last round of facilities upgrades that Raymond got an in-depth look at the schools from a different perspective: as the project manager for a local general contractor handling remodeling and additions to Monclova Primary and Waterville Primary, as well as additions and renovations to AW High School.
A Sylvania Southview graduate, Raymond earned his associate degree in architecture technology and construction from The University of Toledo and spent over 20 years in the architecture field before joining the construction contracting side for nine years.
Aside from the AWLS projects in 2018-2019, Raymond oversaw some larger projects for a variety of clients in the fields of K-12 education, universities and colleges, health care and municipalities.
“I’m now representing the owner’s side of the team instead of the architectural design side and construction contracting side. I’ll be helping to determine new projects’ bid scopes and working together with architectural and engineering firms and bidding and hiring contractors to do the work,” he said. “It will be a huge advantage knowing the players and their specialties on all sides.”
When he heard about the opening in his home district – and having worked with Matt and AWLS in the past – Raymond said he considered and prayed on deciding to apply.
“I felt like God put me in this moment and presented this opportunity to me and said, ‘You are ready for a next chapter,’” he said. “I wanted to be a part of and work for this great AW community. Anthony Wayne, in my opinion, is the premier school district in the area, and it’s where I raised two successful kids.”
A Whitehouse resident for 21 years, Raymond and his wife, Susan, have two AWLS graduates. Son Alex, a 2015 graduate, earned his degree in aerospace engineering from Notre Dame University. Their daughter Sidney, a 2017 graduate, earned a degree in education from Miami University and is a second-grade teacher for Whitehouse Primary School.
In addition to working full time, Raymond is in his 11th year as a volunteer with the Whitehouse Fire Department and currently serves as president of the Whitehouse Firefighters’ Association. He is certified as a firefighter 1 and an emergency medical technician first responder. With some previous OSHA and fire safety training, Raymond said he’ll utilize his many years of experience and knowledge in an attempt to head off any issues in the buildings or on facilities grounds before they come up in an inspection.
As a longtime member of Community of Christ Lutheran Church, he’s also been active in adult handbell choir and knows the two previous operations directors, Matt Dick and Dick Burdo. What he didn’t know until he was on the job was the talented pool of employees that the AWLS Operations Department encompasses, including maintenance supervisor Brian Sroczynski, custodial supervisor Laura Myerholtz and administrative assistant Jane Morgan, who have helped him immensely with the transition after Dick retired on March 31.
“Everyone has been a huge help to me with their assistance and guidance,” he said.