BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — From lights, cameras and action plans to building construction and renovations, Matt Dick’s role as operations director for Anthony Wayne Local Schools affects every one of the 4,400 students and hundreds of staff members – as well as the entire community.
“It really is everything from the grass to the roofs to safety, security, keeping the lights on and the classrooms warm. It’s keeping a lot of balls in the air at once, but I don’t do it alone,” said Matt, who prefers to use the term “we” when he talks of the work he does.
The team includes administrators and a 50-member staff that includes secretary Jane Morgan, maintenance supervisor Brian Sroczynski, custodial supervisor Laura Myerholtz, the grounds crew, building engineers and custodians.
“I absolutely love being part of the operations team – watching them work together with dedication and passion to provide clean, sanitary and comfortable facilities for staff and students,” Matt said.
It’s the team camaraderie that he will miss the most when he retires on Friday, March 31 after 25 years in the position, he said.
A 1981 Anthony Wayne graduate, Matt earned a bachelor of science in geology from The University of Toledo and an associate degree in applied science from the Community College of the Air Force. He began his career in environmental consulting as a project manager and laboratory director, eventually starting his own consulting firm. During his 21-year career with the 180th Civil Engineering Squadron of the Ohio Air National Guard, Matt served as an environmental specialist, base entomologist, squadron first sergeant and squadron operations noncommissioned officer in charge at the rank of senior master sergeant.
Matt was hired in 1998 to take over the lead operations role for the district.
“It gave me a great sense of pride and ownership, returning to my alma mater and being able to help provide the same great experiences to all the students who would follow,” he said.
During his first weeks on the job, he was mentored by Dick Burdo, a family friend who was head of operations for 18 years.
“Dick is a wonderful man who I always looked up to and I’m very grateful to this day for the time he spent with me, his caring friendship and leadership,” Matt said.
Matt also credits his success to the values, principles and work ethic instilled in him by his late father, Donald F. Dick.
The job involves making sure that building engineers and custodians have the needed supplies, parts and equipment; contracting for services including garbage disposal, lawn treatments and elevator service; working with the local police and fire departments, the health department and building regulations departments to stay in compliance; maintaining school safety plans compliance with the Ohio Department of Education; and managing multiple smaller projects with various contractors.
In addition to his daily work, Matt has served as the owner’s representative on the district’s behalf for major construction projects, such as the $44 million project to renovate and add safe entryways, construct parking lots and drop-off areas on the Finzel Road campus, adding a new gymnasium and cafeteria to the high school, classrooms to Waterville Primary and – the largest project during his tenure – the construction of a new Whitehouse Primary School.
“Whitehouse Primary is an excellent facility that came from a very collaborative process,” he said, referring to meetings with teachers, staff, the community and the architects and engineers in the months leading up to the design.
Long-range planning is part of the role. A five-year permanent improvement plan, updated regularly, tracks everything from roofs to HVAC replacements, kitchen and custodial equipment, snow plows and mowers.
During spring break, Matt does a walkthrough of every building to update that plan, in order to prioritize summer jobs, such as painting, carpet replacement and working with contractors on other improvements. Over winter break, crews are cleaning, changing HVAC filters and installing new marker boards and technology items.
While AWLS has a technology department, most operations systems depend heavily on technology – such as the online school public address systems, two different online HVAC control systems, digital security alarm systems and fire alarms, a facility access FOB system and carbon monoxide alarms. The work order system is also web-based along with safety training, absence reporting, recruiting and primary communication tools.
“I bought a Commodore 64 computer back around 1981 and never looked back. What a privilege to have lived through the advances in technology we have experienced,” he said. “Even so, we will really need the community’s support to fully bring AWLS into the digital future; it’s an ongoing process that still needs work.”
Being in charge of so many buildings also brings its share of emergencies, such as the frozen pipe that burst and flooded four junior high classrooms over winter break. Matt, Brian Sroczynzki and building engineer Chad Douglas spent most of Christmas Eve drying it out. Last August, a high school roof drain pipe came loose and dumped all the roof water into the cafeteria, which continued for several hours during a heavy rain. Another part of the job is answering burglar alarm calls in the middle of the night or weekend – knowing they’re false alarms.
“Emergencies are never fun, but really, we handle them every day. It’s what we do. They just vary in scope,” he said. “Engineers and custodians deal with children getting sick every day, and so I give them the highest credit for handling emergencies.”
Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz credits Matt and his team for staying late and working over holidays to get it right.
“I have many examples of Matt and his team going above and beyond,” Fritz said. “Matt has so much history and institutional knowledge of the community and district.”
Matt’s contributions will continue after he’s retired: He recently obtained a $450,000 safety and security improvement grant that will create a secure command and control center at each building, purchase handheld two-way radios for teaching staff, add intrusion detection at entrances and upgrade district security camera systems.
As he looks forward to the next phase of his life, Matt said he plans to spend more time with his wife, Lisa – a fourth-grade teacher at Monclova – as well as their three daughters and six grandchildren. He may also take on some small jobs doing renovations for family and friends.
During the February 6 Anthony Wayne Board of Education, Neil Raymond was approved as the next operations director. Raymond has experience as a senior project manager at Midwest Contracting, Inc. and is a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for the village of Whitehouse.