Posted on May 3, 2021
Categories: Ops Newsletter

The Operations Division oversees a wide variety of work to maintain and improve the 306 buildings that support the students and staff in our School District. Led by Chief Operating Officer, Reggie McNeil, the Operations team includes the Offices of Capital Programs, Environmental, Facilities & Maintenance, Food Services, and Transportation.

The collective work of these teams helps to ensure safe and healthy environments for our students, and contributes to the educational process, by providing healthy meals daily and coordinating the safe and efficient travel of students to and from school every day.

To provide a better understanding of each office’s function, every newsletter will introduce you to members from our teams. We hope you will enjoy getting to know them, and some highlights of their most recent work. In this issue, we’ll continue with the Offices of Capital Programs and Environmental Management and Services.

The Office of Capital Programs

What Do We Do?

Capital’s mission is to provide a safe learning environment for children and staff. Day-to-day, this means identifying and supporting investments in the buildings that students in Philadelphia learn in. This can include the construction of new buildings, renovating existing facilities, erecting additions and converting existing facilities to accommodate educational program changes, and improving existing facility sites.

Meet the Capital Management Team!

Top Row (left to right): Jesse Jones, Ahmed Sultan, Leigh Clark, and Joe Calabretta. Bottom Row (left to right): Nicole Ward and Damon Gonzaga

The Office of Capital Programs works in support of Guardrail 1: Every school will be a safe, welcoming and healthy place where our students, staff and community want to be and learn each day. Working under the direction of Ahmed Sultan who was highlighted in January, the Capital Management Team includes Jesse Jones, the Contracts Manager, Leigh Clark, the Operations Manager, Joe Calabretta, the Finance Manager, Nicole Ward, the Design Manager, and Damon Gonzaga the Interim Construction Manager.

The team is tasked with identifying and supporting investments in the learning environments of our Philadelphia students. These managers are responsible for the management of the capital budget, educational planning, architectural and engineering design, construction and oversight of all new construction, major renovations, additions, improving existing facility sites, boiler, roof and window replacements, and converting existing facilities to accommodate current and forward thinking educational programs.

Hamilton Major Renovation Update

The Hamilton school, built in 1968, underwent a major transformation last year that addressed major systems like heating, cooling, electrical upgrades, window and door replacement, masonry repairs, bathroom upgrades, and schoolyard improvements. All classrooms were modernized with new flooring, fresh paint, window shades, lighting, electrical and data outlets to meet modern technology needs, and new furniture that supports learning in the 21st century.

The new mechanical systems are high-efficiency, which will provide improved indoor air quality, as well as energy savings. The electrical upgrades will support modern technology in the classroom. The new windows and doors will provide natural lighting which improves the environment for learning. The school was outfitted with new furniture to support project-based learning, and aids in making the school a welcoming place for the students, staff and parents. Phase #2, during which we will continue renovating additional classrooms and bathrooms, began this month and is estimated to be completed this fall.

Richmond Addition and Major Renovation

The original Richmond School building, built in 1929, is undergoing major renovations and is receiving a new addition to increase classroom space, and includes a brand new cafeteria. The addition will be ADA-compliant, and  LEED (Lead in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified with high-efficiency mechanical and lighting systems, and low-flow plumbing fixtures to reduce water usage.

The new cafeteria and full-service kitchen means the previously multi-use “Gymnateria” can now be used as a full-time gymnasium. The existing school will benefit from the new mechanical system and energy efficient light fixtures, along with other improvements. Existing classrooms will be updated with lighting, electric and data outlets, new window shades, and new flooring and paint that provides a warm and welcoming learning environment. The entire project is anticipated to be complete by March, 2022.

Alternative and Clean Energy Grant

The Office of Capital Programs applied for, and received, an Alternative and Clean Energy (ACE) grant in the amount of $651,868 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community Development for the Richmond School renovation and addition. The ACE grant funding will provide for sustainable design upgrades to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold Certification.

The Office of Environmental Management and Services

What Do We Do?

The Environmental team conducts environmental site assessments, designs and monitors environmental abatement and remediation projects, ensures compliance with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, conducts lead in water testing, and responds to hazardous material releases according to federal, state and local regulations.

Meet the A-Team!

Top Row (left to right) Jonathon Bartivic, James Williams, Christopher Lynch, Albert McDonough, Robert Arant, Scott Rooney, and John McCready. Bottom Row (left to right): Shannon Pressey, Micheal Joseph, John Truesdale, Julio Candelaria, Danielle Minor, and Jerry Taylor

The A-Team Supervisor was introduced in our last article, and this new organization style is already paying dividends. The A-Team has one point of contact; John is able to organize and schedule each member of the team and efficiently report their progress out to others from a centralized hub. The A-Team is working in our buildings every night, and on weekends, to provide a safe and improved space for teachers to teach and students to learn.

The A-Team has completed approximately 770 individual projects since January, across hundreds of our schools. The projects would include the encapsulation and/or removal of asbestos containing material (ACM), the abatement of mold, and the re-insulation of exposed pipes with fiberglass. The A-team has also instituted a new practice of installing PVC protection sleeves around pipe insulation (asbestos or fiberglass) in our buildings. They are utilizing the time it takes to perform air sampling to provide this added service.

City Funding & Hydration Stations

We are working with the City of Philadelphia on a $95,000 grant to purchase hydration stations for our schools. This equates to approximately 80 new hydration stations. We will install the hydration stations in schools that are in need based on a variety of factors to include, The City of Philadelphia published blood lead levels, information gained from the lead in water testing, The SDP Facilities Condition Assessment, to increase availability of drinkable water stations in schools to meet a ratio of 1 to every 100 students. We will have to assess the exact locations of each station based on the existing plumbing, any asbestos or lead issues, availability of electrical power, and accessibility to staff and students. As you can see, there is a lot of pre-planning that is necessary to install a hydration station!


Donesafe, our new database program, is in the development stage. We have been uploading our various google sheets, flushing out each module with real-world applications, and performing site visits to gain an understanding of how each module is interconnected to other departments. We are anticipating an internal test phase to begin next month. We are hoping to begin to utilize this in the field during our 3-Year AHERA Reinspection cycle that will begin later this summer.

Austin Gwiazdowski from the Office of Environmental Management and Services (OEMS), and Zach Goodwin from the Office of Information Technology (IT) are working with Chris Webster from Donesafe on this project. This team is building a database and automated workflow system from the ground up for OEMS to use. The system will help OEMS manage the large amount of data and the complex flow of information about the District’s buildings that they maintain. The system will allow a synchronous update of information from simultaneous users, and will help to automate tedious processes.

(left to right) Austin Gwiazdowski, Zack Goodwin, and Chris Webster

Environmental Advisory Council

The Environmental Advisory Council’s (EAC) inaugural meeting was held on January 26, 2021. Information about that meeting can be found here. Discussion topics included: the purpose of the EAC, how each committee member was selected, an overview of the Environmental Department, roles and responsibilities, and future reporting of projects and activities of OEMS. In an attempt to provide personal feedback, each member of the EAC was contacted to engage informal discussions. The information gained will be presented and will be used as talking points and areas of focus during upcoming meetings.


Next Month: We will highlight work from the Office of Food Services and the Office of Transportation.