By LEIGH PROM
Jason Guilliams has worn a lot of hats in his 29 years with Franklin County Public Schools. He started as a physical education teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School while also coaching men’s varsity soccer at Franklin County High School.
His next stop was at Burnt Chimney Elementary School as a PE teacher before serving as an assistant principal at Burnt Chimney and Boones Mill elementary schools. His responsibilities increased when he became the principal at Callaway Elementary.
From there he went to Burnt Chimney Elementary where he served as principal for three years. When the director of operations position opened in the spring, he applied, interviewed and was selected. He replaces Gregg Cuddy who is the new director of human resources.
The biggest challenge, Guilliams said, is “being prepared for all circumstances and keeping the staff and students safe.”
“Cleaning will be a daunting job,” he added as staff must prep and be ready every day.
As director of operations, Guilliams is responsible for transportation, food service, maintenance and school safety.
School safety includes everything from traffic flow to disastrous events. With COVID-19, school safety has taken on additional safety concerns. Guilliams said the school district has good plans and procedures in place for dealing with events.
“I am excited to have Mr. Jason Guilliams as our Director of Operations,” said Superintendent Mark Church. “He has been a teacher and administrator in Franklin County for many years and brings that experience and knowledge to the position. I am certainly glad to have his experience as we navigate operating schools during a pandemic.”
Charles Bowles, who recently retired from the school system after 47 years in the maintenance department, said of Guilliams, “He has an unusual calmness about himself. No matter what kind of excitement is going on around him, he’s just calm.”
Guilliams is quick to give credit to others. “Our departments are in great shape. Whether it be in HVAC, changing tires on buses, driving the buses or meal prep, we have good people in all of our departments. Everybody has a skill set. It truly takes a large group of people to make it all work.”
He said his new role focuses on keeping students and teachers safe.
“It’s a lot of research in trying to stay current with COVID-19 and CDC guidelines as we prepare for a safe return for students and employees,” Guilliams said.
He said he is learning that each department has its own dynamics, and that they are all unique and have their own set of expectations.
Time management has become increasingly important. He also noted the importance of being visible to the departments and being proactive to make sure everything is being done as it should in preparation for the students’ return.
Tiffany Smith, secretary/bookkeeper at Burnt Chimney Elementary, has experience with Guilliams as a parent and employee.
She said her children attend Burnt Chimney and adored Guilliams. “You could always tell he truly cared for the children under his supervision.”
Smith said Guilliams was also the type of person to send a note of encouragement to employees or take meals to show sympathy in times of loss.
Guilliams said he feels being a part of the county and knowing it for so many years has helped prepare him for his new position and enabled him to develop personal contacts and relationships with people. He said he can’t know everything, but having good people skills and working well with them helps.
There are lots of decisions to be made in his role. In light of COVID-19 and having to make decisions about snow days, Guilliams said, “That would be an easy day compared to now.”
Outside of work, Guilliams enjoys spending time with his wife, kids and grandkids, running his hounds at night and smallmouth fishing on the river.
Guilliams said he is off to a good start and has the community’s support.
“I know he will do great things as director of operations for the Franklin County Public Schools,” Smith said.
“During this COVID-19 age we are living, I’m glad he is the director of operations. Franklin County and his new employees are lucky to have him!”
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