Distribution Services dazzles during summer months

Talk in the school division’s Office of Distribution Services is in terms of pallets, boxes and orders.

Forty pallets of computer carts. Fifteen pallets of toilet paper. Fifty boxes of drum sets. Thirty orders from schools. Boxes of elementary school recorders – 8,100 recorders to be exact.

Deliveries are accepted, sorted and distributed to schools throughout the year. Schools submit work orders and requested textbooks, equipment and supplies are provided. The office is also responsible for the delivery of interdepartmental mail and the sale and redistribution of used school board property.

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There isn’t much time during the summer months for anyone on the team to pause and discuss their work, but Scott Spurgeon and Gary Waddell were willing to walk and talk through the warehouse to describe what happens behind the scenes.

“It’s a boring job,” joked Waddell. “I can’t dazzle you.”

After all the activity we saw one afternoon in mid-August, we disagree.

Scott Spurgeon is a warehousing and distribution technician who has worked for the school division since 1997. His primary responsibilities are working with elementary and middle school textbooks, supplemental instructional materials and clinic supplies. He described his work this summer.

These are excess books and calculators that came in from Bayside 6. I need to go through here and find out what’s good and what’s not. We’ll find a place on the shelf for these Write Source books, and these calculators are now in Tip-Web.

This is the high school READ 180 program. I was making work orders to go out tomorrow. It’s six of these white boxes, four of these and one of these small ones. That makes a set of high school READ 180 books.

These right here are recorders — 8,100 of them. I’ve never played one. I assume there is a box or two going to every elementary school.

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Describe your work in the warehouse during the summer months.

To start the summer, pretty much right from the day school ends, schools are putting in orders for books to be picked up and things they are not going to use. That’s how it starts. We will have a work order to go out and pick up old books. We decide what materials are still good and review what kind of damage there is.

That was to start the summer. By the first of July, schools start putting in their new requests for books for the upcoming school year. Every elementary has an order, whether they want it or not, because math is a consumable book. They get new ones every year. So, that’s one pallet. Then they add in their extras of whatever else they need. I’ll spend weeks in July doing that. Then Aug. 1, they are allowed to put in their second order and that will be things they missed the first time. Usually the order is a little bit smaller. It might just be a box or two. ‘I need two of these, one of these and five of these.’ It’s because their enrollment has changed the last month. July is supposed to be their big order.

In between that July and August timeframe, Teaching and Learning is involved here a lot. Some of them are here right now. They are getting together the instructional materials – things like teacher editions and supplementary materials. Then we make work orders and those materials get sent out to the schools. Teaching and Learning has ordered nonfiction sets for all the elementary schools. PALs this year got iPads and cases. That all comes through here.

I do clinic supplies, too. It will pick up here when the nurses get back. I’ll get bombarded with orders for gloves and gowns and such.

What are the most challenging aspects of the job?

For this time of year everybody wants to be first on the list to get their orders, and it just doesn’t work that way. I wish we could, but it doesn’t work that way. That’s probably the hardest thing.

What do you like most about the job?

This time of year? It’s busy and time goes by fast this time of year. At the same time, that’s what I dislike. What happened to summer? It’s over.

We’ll have people come through here and say, ‘Oh, since school is not in session, this is your quiet time.’ No, it’s our busy time. I would say our busiest time is really from the last few weeks of school with graduation because we’re involved with that, taking everything to the convention center like metal detectors and stanchions. We spend a couple of days, full days, with everybody involved getting everything there those last couple of days of school.

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Our busy time is right before school gets out through a couple of weeks after school gets started. People are going to need things picked up. ‘We’ve got all these desks blocking a hallway and they need to be removed.’ There might be 50 orders that first day of school. ‘Oh, we need one of these; or we need two of these; or we need to return two of these.’ For those little things, we put it in the pony.”

What’s changed about the work over the years?

Accountability has changed, for sure. It’s no longer that someone calls in and says, ‘Can you send me over 10 boxes of such and such.’ There’s got to be a reason why and someone has to sign for it. There’s a trail to why, so there’s not so much excess. It’s still a work in progress. The drivers now all have iPads and everything that leaves here has a work order tied to it. There, it’s supposed to have a signature as opposed to a phone call when we rubber band something together and send it through the pony. Also, we all used to try to remember, ‘Where did we put that pallet?’ SchoolDude lets know right where everything is on the shelves.

Gary Waddell is an assistant warehouse supervisor who began working for the school division almost 10 years ago after retiring from the U.S. Navy. He works with custodial orders, supervises the fleet of trucks and more. He paused from filling pallets to discuss his work in the warehouse.  

The first order of the year, schools order everything. Then they put in an order every month. This one’s for Tallwood. You can tell it’s the beginning of the year because they’re replacing mats and some of these big trashcans. This is the third pallet already. The reason why they get so much, like toilet paper, is because football starts and they use their stadium. They need toilet paper there, so they order extra. That’s the heaviest stuff in here – toilet paper and paper towels.

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There are a couple things in the summer that don’t happen during the rest of the school year, like musical instruments. John Brewington and his staff order multiple pieces. It could be 50 trumpets and they are all broken down by what goes to the different schools. You have to sort through them. I’m not a musical person. I wouldn’t know one from another if it wasn’t for the stock number on the side of the box.

I’ll show you something I’m working on right now for one school’s marching band – all new drums. They ordered it in one set, but they’re red. White drums and black drums are common, but the order is coming in pieces because they’re red. I’ve got one pallet here. I’ve got another here. I have to keep track, and they’re like 50 pieces to it. Each drum has one of these harnesses that fit that specific drum. They’re all different sizes, and they all come in a case. Each drum comes with three parts. This is for the whole marching band. I don’t even know how many pallets it will take but its trickling in here. The P.O. said to deliver in one lot, but it’s not been delivered in one lot. We wish the drum sets would have shown up at one time because we would just reroute it back out the door and out to the schools.

And we just got computer carts in. Teaching and Learning ordered carts for Chromebooks. There are 238 of them because a lot of schools received Chromebooks. When those came in a tractor trailer loaded 40 carts, I think, on a truck. We have a distribution list, and we’ve got to load them up and get them out of here. Three were sent unassembled, and the P.O. says to fully assemble. Now, they’re supposed to send a tractor trailer to pick them up and bring me three that are put together. Then there were the sleeves for all the Chromebooks. I can’t even remember how many there were of them.

What don’t people know about the work here?

I’ll give you a perfect scenario. Let’s say you have an apartment and you have furniture and more. Over the years, you want something new. You think, ‘That’s awesome. I want that.’ Something has to happen with the old one. Someone has to deliver the new furniture and something’s got to happen to the old one. Companies nowadays will take your furniture away, but in the school system we take everything back. The real challenge seems to be recycling or reselling the stuff, especially if there are a lot of the same pieces because it saturates the market. Even those computer carts – years from now they’ll get new ones, so something has to happen to the old ones.

There are three assets here. One, is always your people. Two, is your equipment because we have so much of it. Three, is the square footage in here because it’s a warehouse. The more shelving you take up, the less room you have. It’s easier sending orders because I don’t see it again.

What is the best part of your job? What do you enjoy most?  

It’s probably just the job itself. We work behind the scenes. Everyone looks at teachers and staff, and that’s what you want the public to focus on. Behind the scenes, people may not say, “Hey, you did a good job,” but you know that even though it’s toilet paper or drum set or whatever, some kid needs that stuff every day – stuff they may take for granted. It just doesn’t magically appear in a school. Somebody has to deal with it. Granted, it’s just me, but I feel like every day I make a difference, even though nobody sees me. I’m not actually standing in front of a classroom.

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I do get to work with two kids every year from Landstown High School [in the special education work experience program]. They come here three days a week one week and two days a week the following week. They come in and learn to get into a routine. This will be my fifth year. I try to tell them it’s always like a real job. Some of them pick it up so fast and stay ahead of you. I take a little bit of pride in that because it’s the only time I actually get to work with any of the kids.

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