When Kevin Keenan was elected to the Springfield School District Board of School Directors he knew the decision had already been made to execute the high school master plan. He may not have known he would shortly step into a critical position as part of a team responsible for management and oversight of a significant endeavor.
Even prior to his board service, Keenan has a lifelong familiarity with the district, having grown up in close proximity to the current and future high school campus. He is a 1995 graduate of the high school, married to a 1994 graduate and father of two children.
Keenan's characterized his SHS experience as overwhelmingly positive from both an athletic and academic perspective. He cited three teachers in particular who inspired his interest in a science career; Dan Vandenberg, Joe Zumpano, and Ron LeDonne.
"Those great experiences started a passion for me when I knew I wanted to do something in math," said Keenan who acknowledged his skill with numbers substantially exceeded those in Language Arts.
Keenan took his multiple talents to Penn State where playing lacrosse and majored in chemical engineering. With considerable overlaps between the disciplines of chemical and mechanical engineering, his first job was with a mechanical contractor working on major construction at the Philadelphia International Airport.
"We built Terminal F, and the hammerhead at C and D," Keenan said, explaining the configuration of the latter as extending on both ends. "I got to be on site and actually see how everything was built. It was a wonderful experience, especially as there was a foreman who took me under his wing. I have been very fortunate to have had great coaches and mentor, on and off the field."
Among Keenan's subsequent employment was as a project engineer and estimator for construction of the Comcast building.
"There was a lot of logistics, group collaborative work, and detail. There is a similar challenge here," Keenan said of the Springfield master plan.
One element was missing, Keenan felt. "I knew I wanted to be more 'client facing.' Because of that interaction, I had to know how projects were being funded. I went to Penn State Great Valley and received an MBA with a concentration in Finance."
The program helped round out his skills, Keenan said, with areas of study such as communication, operational dynamics and how groups functions. On the later, Keenan characterized the linear group process as "forming, storming, norming and reforming." Not quite busy enough, Keenan was also playing professional lacrosse for a time and building his family.
Fast forward to Keenan's school board election for Region 4. It is a role which exemplifies his family's tradition of volunteering and community service.
"There is a good balance on the board. People look for different things when electing school board members. Ours is very functional with a lot of healthy debate on issues," he said.
Now in his third year, Keenan is Facilities Committee Chair, assuming that mantle from long-serving Director Doug Carney who shepherded the master plan to approval before stepping down from the board. Keenan explained the committee is responsible for seeing to the upkeep of existing facilities and operations management. But, clearly, capital projects such as a new school or the master plan represent larger endeavors.
Keenan is neatly meshing the school board responsibilities with his professional career and current position as the Vice President of Project Development for JDC Energy Services. His experience gives him a qualified and specific perspective.
"The board had already voted for the master plan and presented it to the township for approval," he said, underscoring the point of entry for his involvement.
At present, he spends about six to eight hours a week of consultation working with those who have day to day responsibilities. They include Executive Director Don Mooney and the district's on site management company, CIG Group. The overall project team includes the general contractor, architects, engineers, and several testing agencies. All of these positions are in addition to Peter Olsen, the district's Facilities Director. He has the unique (add-on) task of taking aerial photos via a drone, for which he obtained an FAA license.
"I think people generally don't understand all the thought that goes into every element of a project this big. It's not just the engineering. They might look at pouring concrete and think it looks easy," Keenan said. "Every aspect is tested and every contract executed as planned. The contractual experience can be an eye-opener, down to rejecting a subcontractor if needed. We also operate on an electronic system so that if there is an issue to be addressed, it isn't a piece of paper that gets sent and wait for a reply."
Details can be as fundamental as dirt—literally. As an example, Keenan explained excessive rain in the fall caused a level of saturation which left some dirt unsatisfactory on which to build or make other site improvements such as roads. The options included spreading out the dirt (in an effort to dry it out); treat it with chemicals; or buy new dirt.
"On issues like this, we have an all star facilities committee comprised of district residents with many different skills and experiences who can find solutions. The role of the committee is to optimize the entire project process. I'm confident our team can solve any issue which may come up on a daily basis."
Weather tends to be the biggest factor in the timeline. At this writing, the end of 2018, work underway included grading, underground pipe installation, electrical conduits and building footings. On the long view, Keenan said the project's best case completion date is summer 2020 up to fall of 2020.
Although his focus and expertise are on the physical project, Keenan is very aware of the educational benefits of a 21st century facility.
"I am hearing from younger parents how great the district will be from and educational perspective. We have to view this as today's sixth grader who will be competing with a peer from China in the global economic market."
Keenan closes with two key thoughts to provide confidence the project will move forward with the entire school community in mind. First, the 10 years of planning were methodical and strategic; second, everything is under control.