The Force Behind our Facilities
4:30 A.M.: New York City is still sleeping, with alarm clocks unrung and dreams uninterrupted. But Craig Kennedy, Superintendent of Building and Grounds, is not tucked into his bed like most others; he is at Packer, beginning his day before the first hints of morning have broken through the sky.
“Whatever is happening that day, I’ve got to take care of it before everybody gets here,” Mr. Kennedy said of his preparatory work at Packer. Many students never have the opportunity to fully see the work that Mr. Kennedy, along with all other sixteen members of Packer’s facilities staff, does each day, whether that be because of scheduling or the nature of the work itself. The facilities staff are the people in charge of ensuring that our front desk is monitored, our cafeteria is clean, our lights are functioning, and our steps are shoveled when it snows; in other words, they are the ones who keep Packer running.
Given that much of the work done by the facilities staff happens behind the scenes, it is often a challenge for students to cultivate similar relationships with that sect of employees to those that they have with teachers or other more public figures, such as members of the cafeteria staff. The relationships students have with the facilities staff are often more casual, limited to the occasional sports reference or passing smile in the hallway.
Jorge Montoya, a member of the Maintenance Team, does not have many personal relationships with Upper School students.
“We get to know them because we see them all the time, but besides [the students who work with us in the summer], we don’t really know the kids,” he explained. “It’s more like, ‘hey, what’s up,’ but not a real relationship.”
Mr. Kennedy observed that his relationships with students differ based on age, saying that, “as you grow up, you just think about it as going to school….It’s a different relationship when the kids get older than when they’re younger,” as Lower School students frequently send him cards of appreciation.
Perhaps that is due to the fact that, as people get older, they likely become more desensitized to the organizational minutiae that structure their everyday lives. Since many Upper School students have been attending Packer for a number of years, it may be that they have forgotten how much upkeep is required to make the institution run as seamlessly as it does, as the comfort of life here has become normal for them.
Both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Montoya agreed that Packer students are generally aware of the work that they do, and typically express their appreciation through the simple act of saying thank you.
“For the past couple of years, I have noticed that some of the students say thank you for things that we do, like painting,” reflected Mr. Montoya. “I’m surprised.” Since this observation of heightened recognition is a relatively new one, he speculated that teachers may have recently encouraged students to more actively communicate their gratitude.
“Most of the kids here at Packer are really nice kids,” added Mr. Kennedy. “They’re very polite, which I see in the way they speak to the guys.”
Not all Upper School students, however, agree that we are doing an adequate job in demonstrating our appreciation, including Angelica Sang (‘20) and Jolie Krebs (‘20).
The work of the facilities staff is not always “recognized to the same degree as that of a teacher, because we do not spend allocated amounts of time with them,” said Angelica. Given that academics play such a primary role in students’ lives at Packer, there is often a tendency to sideline the individuals who exist outside of the classrooms.
Jolie agreed, and highlighted that, though the facilities staff does the “behind the scenes work at Packer and are people we do not see as much, they do, in a way, help us out the most.”
Angelica and Jolie were both of the opinion that seemingly small gestures of appreciation, such as saying thank you or expressing genuine interest in the lives of others, can be extremely effective. Even though those tasks are fairly easy to do, both agreed that they are not consistently actualized by the student body.
“[These gestures] sound like stupid things, but they’re really not that juvenile, they’re actually really helpful,” said Angelica.
Our lives at Packer are often underscored by a perpetual sense of stress, and our culture inadvertently places a strong emphasis on simply succeeding in school without pausing to consider the physical school itself. Packer’s building is home to our educational experiences, serving as the space in which we are encouraged to expand our minds and grow into the people we hope to become. In acknowledging all of the moving parts that allow Packer to function, we as students may be able to cultivate a more deep-seated appreciation for our physical school and all of the people in it.