by Maureen Funke
As many of you know, my optimism for Connecticut is unwavering, and the potential of the students in our education system is no exception.
I’m filled with hope as summer comes to an end and primary and higher education students of all ages set off to continue their educational journey. According to the Connecticut School Finance Project, there were over 535,000 students enrolled in public schools in 2017-2018.
Thus, even with our enrollment rates dropping a bit, when you include approximately[i] 70,000 private primary students and over[ii] 158,000 higher education students, there are at least 763,000 students jumping into the school year!
If we then consider that for each student there is an intricate web of teachers, parents, aides, bus drivers, cooks, nurses, janitors, mechanics, social workers, coaches, administrators, instructors, officers, community organizations, builders, manufacturers, designers, engineers, project managers, and more readying for this journey, a significant amount of people you cross paths with daily are part this extraordinary effort!
A group of people work incredibly hard year-round to ensure that students’ experiences are engaging, fun, educational, safe, and inspiring to lay a foundation for futures filled with opportunity. Many of these folks are loyal Construction Institute members who subscribe to our mission of promoting cross-industry collaboration. The orchestra of people and organizations conducted through renovation and expansion projects is a true collaboration.
While the stories, backgrounds, and experiences of our students vary greatly, the carefully conducted orchestras (which take months and often years to plan) are fundamentally the same. The members of the orchestra are the people and organizations of the AEC industry. Construction Institute members and other members of the AEC industry play key roles in ensuring the built environment in which the students are intended to thrive achieves that purpose. Projects involve several to hundreds of team members, including subcontractors and vendors, tradespeople, clients, financing organizations, attorneys, boards, committees, and stakeholders who coordinate with each other on many levels.
Having worked most of my career as a construction manager (you’ve seen the description of a project manager . . . riding a bike, juggling, on fire), although daunting at times, I know firsthand that this elaborate teamwork is almost unbelievable. There are good people working together every day in factories, on sites, in meetings, on phone calls, all with the common goal of delivering the best places for all of our students to learn and thrive. Although you may hear war stories, it is more often than not that this collaborative teamwork goes very well!
So, let’s take this moment to be grateful for each other and for all of the folks working tirelessly to this end. Educational institutions across Conn. have undergone significant transformations to arrive at the point of welcoming students this school year. Projects are challenging, unanticipated issues arise, weather can be unpredictable, trucks break down, people experience life-changing events, and yet the orchestra concludes. A conclusion that hopefully leaves us with gratitude, relief, and pride, that our piece is complete and that over three quarters of a million students will benefit in positive ways from our collective efforts.
To all of you folks who work in the education system, we admire your good work and appreciate the challenges which you face head on every day to improve the lives of our young people — bravo to you, and here’s to a successful school year!
[i] Office of Higher Education, 2016 Connecticut Higher Education System Data and Trends Report
[ii] Private School Review
Maureen Funke, director of new business development for greenbox, is an active Construction Institute member in Hartford.