When Chris describes what they tackle each day, it sounds fairly predictable, but then it quickly branches out into the unexpected. “We’d start each day picking up rubbish and emptying bins, sweeping clear the footpaths and the car parks and keeping an eye out for any damage that needs repair. Staff would have notified us that we need to set up for an event, so we’d do that, even just setting up a classroom to a different plan.” So far, so good, but now it gets more interesting...
“We then might clean the school buses and refuel them, liaise with the contract mowers, and get out into the garden beds to tend them and repair any damage to the reticulation system.”
To this point it’s all hands-on, covered by Chris and the team of three. But Chris also manages an army of sub contractors that are on site regularly – among them cleaners, electricians, plumbers and glaziers. “The toilets can back up, at any time or any other accidental damage to windows etc”. A lot of my time is spent organising contractors.”
And then the bar is raised still further because along with routine maintenance, the usual schedule of events and the unexpected, Chris is also part of the college’s project committee at a time when a series of major projects are underway. “We’ve just completed a gym and classroom complex (Chris and his team put in the landscaping) and will be constructing a 400 seat theatre in 2018. Following that we’ll begin the school’s swimming pool.”
How does Chris manage to be across such a broad scope of work? It probably comes down to experience. “I grew up in Mandurah and started with a horticultural traineeship working in a Serpentine fruit orchard for three or four years. It was full on – spraying weeds, spraying for fruit fly, mowing, picking and packing - they were long days.” Clearly Chris had a great work ethic because he quickly became leading hand. This was also the era where he met, married his wife and started his family.
The next four years of Chris’s career were spent working for the Shire at Wagin, starting on the grounds team then becoming leading hand. Here he trained as a Ranger. From Wagin he took up the role of Parks Ranger for the Shire of Mundaring, adding his skippers ticket to his qualifications in order to effectively handle the management and conservation of lake Leschenaultia (a former railway dam which holds more than 500 million litre of water). And then Chris was contracted to work for the Defence Department, looking after the management of the Department’s various grounds from as far north as Port Hedland, east to Kalgoorlie and south to Albany. “I enjoyed the travel, getting around and seeing different places.”
So when he arrived at Corpus Christi, he was clearly equipped with enough experience to deal with whatever happens at the school. Technically he works between the hours of 5:30am and 2:30pm - not that he sticks to those hours. “You have to prioritise to get things done and if it means working longer to get something sorted, you do. You make sure it’s done before you leave because it’s not going to go away.”
It’s a good method and it seems to keep everything ticking along without fuss. Maybe Chris gets this approach from home. He grew up in a household with two siblings and five foster siblings added into the mix, and he and his wife have created a similar set up within their family. Chris goes home after work to three of his own children, now 18, 17 and 15 as well as three foster children aged five, three and two years old. Surely that helps you keep your perspective and sense of calm.