THE HUB - Feature Article

  • George Arlotto: Anne Arundel schools' silent service weathered the storms

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 1/18/2018

    Every play needs actors, an audience, directors and a playwright, but no successful show has ever been produced without the scenery builders and stagehands who work behind the curtains or above and below the stage floor to ensure that the experience is seamless.

    The heroics of our school system’s “silent service” are critical to our mission. They work, for the most part, unseen by those who come to see the main act.

    In our case, the actors are our students and teachers, the audience our parents and public, and the directors and playwrights our administrators.

    Our silent service personnel are those in the facilities and business side of the house — maintenance workers, custodians, technology and human resources staff, etc. — who fit the definition of heroes once espoused by news anchor Tom Brokaw: “Heroes are people who rise to the occasion and slip away quietly.”

    Perhaps at no time has that heroic work been more evident than over the last two weeks, when winter wreaked havoc on our county. The unprecedented and unrelenting cold that gripped our region from Dec. 31 through Jan. 7 put our schools and other facilities in a precarious position.

    While our students and most employees were enjoying the Christmas-winter break, our facilities, operations, and custodial crews were hard at work to minimize — and, hopefully, avoid — adverse impact on the 13 million square feet of real estate we manage every day.

    Through precautions and through quick reactions to heat and other building issues as they arose, those crews allowed us to open schools on time for all students on Jan. 2 and — save for our single snow day and two other instances in which schools had to be closed due to issues outside our control — keep them open for all of our students.

    As Mother Nature deposited sleet and freezing rain, our facilities, operations, custodial and transportation crews arrived at work as early as 3 a.m. to inspect and treat roads, lots and sidewalks and ensure as best they could that our facilities were ready to receive students.

    While winter weather has a predictable impact, we less often encounter unforeseen emergencies like the one on Jan. 7 — a Sunday — when a burst water pipe drenched equipment at the Parham building, which houses much of our computer infrastructure. An employee entering the building to check on another issue encountered the burst pipe. This launched a week of around-the-clock work to not only fix the plumbing issues but mitigate and repair damage to computer systems.

    On the night the break was discovered, more than a dozen of our applications couldn’t be utilized. Chief among them, from the public’s perspective, were the email and Parham building telephone systems. But teachers also couldn’t access — and therefore use for instruction — online curriculum documents. Our payroll and student data systems also sat idle.

    About 36 hours later, thanks to the herculean efforts of those in our Technology Division, the number of inaccessible applications was cut by more than two-thirds. Teachers were able to access web-based instructional applications by Tuesday, phone service was restored to the Parham building and our payroll and other systems were resurrected.

    Because it required the acquisition of replacement equipment, email and ParentConnect systems took longer to put back online.

    Sure, we had to adapt and adjust. No, it wasn’t perfect. But while it would be easy to criticize the fact that some repairs and restorations took longer than others, this unfairly fails to recognize the amazing work our employees did — and continue to do — to ensure that the show goes on as scheduled and instruction can continue for more than 82,000 children.

    The work these folks do is, as Brokaw described it, heroic. I could not be more proud to call them colleagues or to be a member of this #AACPSAwesome team.

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Notable Dates

  • January 29 & 30 - End of second marking period. Two-hour early dismissal for all students.  School cloed for p.m. Prekindergarten and ECI students.

    February 7 - Prekindergarten Application begins

    February 7 - Professional Development. Two-hour early discmissal for all students. Schools closed for PM Pre-K and ECI students.

    February 19 - Presidents Day -- Schools & Central Offices closed

    March 2 - Schools closed for students

    March 29-April 2 - Easter/Spring Break