NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The City School District of New Rochelle has hired one of the most accomplished Facilities Managers in the United States to lead a new team to replace the outgoing team from Aramark.
At tonight's annual reorganization meeting, Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne announced the hiring of Carl Thurnau, PE, Director of the New York State Education Department's Office of Facilities Planning.
Thurnau is expected to start work in the district on September 12th. His hiring required significant changes involving the municipal civil service commission and the efforts of City Manager Charles B. Strome and Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White.
Carl Thurnau is a licensed Professional Engineer with more than 20 years' of construction management experience. He joined the educational facilities arena in 1996 and has been a champion for providing clean, safe, healthy, energy efficient schools for New York's students.
In addition to assisting the more than 700 public school districts and 38 BOCES throughout New York State in ensuring their buildings are "up to code," Thurnau works with the Superintendents of School Buildings and Grounds (NYS SBGA) leaders in communicating and explaining updates and changes to the educational codes and laws, and seeks input to ensure the best results for the profession at-large.
Thurnau was also instrumental in the creation, implementation and success of the School Facilities Management Institute (SFMI), a non-profit organization created for the purpose of providing education and training programs on timely school facilities management issues. Recognizing the importance of communication and education, he and his staff have provided a number of SFMI's training programs to school facilities professionals.
Thurnau is familiar with New Rochelle. In March 2015, he took time out of his busy schedule to inspect Trinity School at the request of parents who had been complaining for years about a leaking roof, electrical issues and HVAC issues. That same day he inspected Columbus Elementary School and Issac E. Young Middle School. By coincidence, on that same day, your author called his office to raise concerns about the lack of heat at Albert Leonard Middle School after both boilers failed. At my request, Thurnau diverted to inspect ALMS as well.
It is rare for New York State officials to be responsive. In Thurnau's case he not only came to ALMS but continued to respond to your author as the boilers were replaced and to respond to a wide variety of other questions and issues.
After the ceiling collapse at Webster School in August 2015, Thurnau was instrumental in expediting approvals for both the repair work at Webster and upgrades at Holy Name School where the Webster community temporarily relocated.
Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White said that the hiring of Thurnau was a key part of his plan to take the New Rochelle school facilities from "worst to first".
"Carl is supremely qualified," said White. "He can help give our staff the sort of professional environment where they can succeed."
Asked about what that might mean for some of the notoriously ineffective employees, White said those employees face a choice. "They can either get with the program or get going," he said.
White, who has acknowledged that he had no idea how bad things were in New Rochelle when he first came aboard in January 2015 has been overseeing a massive transformation in staffing, vendors and, most importantly culture.
White has been systematically replacing personnel through termination and retirement, the most notable being the sudden departure of Dr. Christine Coleman several months ago, who was unceremoniously told she was fired and then escorted from the building. White has been shedding vendors as well, the most notable Aramark, which managed facilities in New Rochelle since 1987 and has been thoroughly discredited by investigative reports by Talk of the Sound.
White said that he recently rejected grossly inflated offers from Aramark to purchase janitorial equipment provide by the company. White rejected their offer, which he determined to be 10 times more than the true value of the old, and often broken, equipment. He further demanded that Aramark first remove thousands of gallons of illegal chemical cleaning products, as first reported by Talk of the Sound, before they were allowed to gather up their equipment.
"We're going green," said White. "That includes adopting the Team Cleaning approach in our buildings, the use of high-efficiency backpack vacuums and green-cleaning products".
White has the full support of the board and the administration. In announcing the hiring of Thurnau, Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne said with the recently passed $106.5 mm bond, facilities management was now the top priority for the school district, a remarkable change after decades of neglect.