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Blake Henry, The Potomac School, McLean, Virginia  


Tell us about your role. How did you get there?

My role is the operations manager at the Potomac School and, of course, I work with Perry Swope, director of facilities. I am going on my third year in the role at Potomac. During my first two years I was the varsity head football coach and a faculty advisor. I had been a career teacher and coach before working at Potomac. The head of school and our CFO came to me during my second year and asked me if I would be interested in the operations manager position at Potomac. This role included assisting the director of facilities with his duties, managing the work order system, managing the buildings and grounds crew, and helping to manage events on campus.


What do you enjoy most about your job

That it changes each day. The interactions I have with faculty, staff, and students. The job is mostly helping people with on campus facility issues. It is extremely rewarding to be able to help a member of our community.


Where do you turn for inspiration

Our head of school, John Kowalik. He is man with a vision for Potomac. He is  always pushing us to make our school a better place for all involved. That ty inspires me to push our crew and our department to be better at our jobs for Potomac each and every day.


What does Leadership mean to you

Setting the example for our crew in what it means to be a member of our department. It also means holding our crew members to that standard — inspiring them to be better at their duties each and every day.


What is your communication style

Direct. I am going to clear and honest in all my dealings with the crew members. I expect them to be clear and honest with me, too. When I see them doing something really well, I am going to compliment them. When I see them doing something that I don’t like, I am going to let them know. I expect and demand they do the same with me.


What keeps you up at night

Thinking about ways I can improve at my job and ways our crew can improve. Excellence is something we strive for every day as a department. I don’t want to let my crew members or school down in that ongoing pursuit.


What makes you most proud about your facility crew

When they solve a problem or go out of their way to help someone at school without me assigning them the duty. We want our crew members to treat Potomac and their community like it is their own house and family — with care and respect. We want them to take ownership of this special place. When they do that, I am most proud.


What are you currently reading

Victors by Stephen Ambrose and Wicked by Gregory McGuire. I like books about leadership and fantasy.


What’s one thing about you that few people know

I was an all ACC offensive lineman at Wake Forest University.


Thanks, Blake

Of course. Love the network that exists with the alliance.



Ed Hamer, Madeira School (retired)


Tell us about your role. How did you get here

My course is not uncommon.  I began my work life working for my father in his drapery and blind installation business. I left after a few years to become an apprentice in the painter’s union.  While serving as apprentice, I met and become friends with a guy who worked at the University of Pittsburgh.  We stayed in touch over the years. I also enrolled at the Community College of Allegheny County. My wife told me that I would not continue to be a painter. A few years later, I received a call from my buddy. He said that Pitt was hiring. I applied, and I was hired. My credits transfered and, while working at Pitt, I could take course work for $5 a credit. After two years in the paint shop, an opening arose in the facilities office. I applied and was given the job of “facilities manager” for the athletic department. I spend fourteen  years at Pitt, and earned my bachelors in business. I left Pitt in 1998 to be the director of facilities at Durham Academy in Durham, North Carolina. I came to Madeira in 2005. This is the best job I have ever had.


What do you enjoy most about your job

The never ending learning that occurs. We are constantly challenged to adapt to new technologies and processes. I also like being a mentor and leader to those in our shop.


Where do you turn for inspiration

Embracing the mission of the school. I am proud to say that everyone in our department understands how important it is that we do our job. Without us creating and maintaining a teaching environment conducive to effective learning, then teachers can’t teach and the girls can’t learn. We are critical to their success.


What does leadership mean to you

Supporting, encouraging, and engaging our team to be the best they can. I let them know that they don’t work for me. I work for them. It is my job to see that they have the tools and skills (both hard and soft) to do their job. Leadership also means setting the example for them to follow.


What is your communication style

I have found that communication styles vary with the environment and culture of the school. I spent a few months understanding what type of communication was the norm and how to deliver it. I believe in listening to the message with an open mind and trying to eliminate the emotion in order to focus on the issue and then respond. By being understanding and sympathetic, I have found that it allows us to project our concern. We rely on our work order system to keep users aware and up to date with requests. We also are available during the day by office phone, cell phone, and walkie-talkies. Communication is a permanent topic for our weekly staff meetings.


What keeps you up at night

When my boss first started we had a meeting and the first question he asked was “what keeps you up at night.” My answer then is my answer now. Our waste water treatment plant. This plant is the most critical issue for facilities.  Without it operating as designed 24.7.365 we can’t operate as a school. I am fortunate to be able to live on campus. Every night I am lulled to sleep by the sound of the blowers.


What are you most proud, particularly among facilities staffers

The fact that our department understands how critical we are to the successful operation of the school. They recognize how important their work is, and they feel respected by the community. We are also the first department to have a one hundred percent participation every in the annual giving fund.


What are you currently reading, watching or listing 

Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer. It is a great book on how to balance life and work. The next one on my list is 8 Seconds of Courage”by Flo Groberg.


What’s one thing about you that few people know 

Belonged to the United Mine Construction Workers Union.


Thanks for your time, Ed

You bet!



Andrew Harrington, Stone Ridge


Tell us about your role. How did you get here.

At Stone Ridge I am responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of 215,000 square feet of infrastructure, capital projects, new construction, event management, campus security, student transportation, and the maintenance of our thirty-five acre Bethesda, MD campus. Prior to my time at Stone Ridge, I spent thirteen years handling facilities and operations for college athletic departments including, Fairfield University, Fordham University, Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University.  After many years in college athletics I yearned for something more. I transitioned to the District’s Sports & Convention Authority (Events DC).  I worked at RFK Stadium for two years as the director of venue operations before making the transition to Stone Ridge in 2016.


What do you enjoy most about your job

The process of making our buildings and grounds more efficient and appealing to our students and their families through capital projects and various renovation work.  Stone Ridge is beginning to move on its long term Master Planning initiatives. Being a part of this is exciting.


Where do you turn for inspiration

My children. I have three kids at Stone Ridge; one in kindergarten and two in preschool.  They’re all the inspiration I need in my personal life and in my work at Stone Ridge.  The work I do at Stone Ridge has a direct effect on my kids and all the others we serve.


What does leadership mean to you

Inspiration. I have always been impressed by leaders that inspire employees to engage in their work. I want my employees to care about their work and not just arrive on campus every day to punch a clock. I strive to be the kind of leader that inspires my employees.


What’s your communication style

I try my best to provide an explanation of my work to any faculty or staff member that asks.  Generally, most faculty and staff do not understand what it takes to complete a facilities related task or why my team might prioritize some tasks before others. There is little difference, I suspect, if I stepped into a history class and tried to teach. I always try to communicate the reasons for our actions and the steps we are taking to accomplish tasks. By doing this, my faculty and staff gain an understanding of what my world is like. This process also affords me the opportunity to develop relationships with the faculty and staff that I otherwise may not have had.


What keeps you up at night

The rise of active shooters in schools across the country. Are the faculty, staff and students prepared for an active shooter situation? Have we done enough to secure our campus? This is the topic and a few of the questions that keep me up at night. The truth is that you are never done preparing.


What are you most proud, particularly among facilities staffers

The progress my team has made over my two years at Stone Ridge.  We have transformed this campus (buildings & grounds) and drastically improved customer service as it relates to maintenance and housekeeping requests.  I have also had several employees express interest and follow through on professional development.


What are you currently reading/watching/listening to

My wife and I stream a lot of Netflix content once we finally get the kids to bed in the evenings.  As far as music, I know just about every song from Frozen, Moana and Sing.  These movies are on a constant rotation in our house.


What’s one thing about you that few people know

At a few weeks old, I was adopted. It was a wonderful thing for my parents who had difficulty having children. I do whatever I can to inform friends and family about adoption. There are so many children that need a home in this country. To me, there is no greater gift than bringing a child into your home.


Thank you, Andrew

My pleasure!

Independent School Alliance