Professional Development Pays Off for Buildings & Grounds Director

Professional Development Pays Off for Buildings & Grounds Director

Mr. Joseph Sierra has been in charge of buildings and grounds for District 401 since July 2018. He came to Elmwood Park with almost 25 years experience in the private sector. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)


District 401's Director for Buildings & Grounds, Mr. Joseph Sierra, recently earned two of the top professional certifications available in his field.

Mr. Sierra has been recognized as a Certified Plant Supervisor (CPS) and a Certified Professional Maintenance Manager (CPMM).

He received those credentials after he completed two separate training programs and passed a pair of major comprehensive examinations within a span of just seven months.

The certification programs are offered jointly by the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and the Association for Facilities Engineering.

Pursuing the training was something that Mr. Sierra did on his own initiative.

"I thought at this point in my career, the time was right," said Mr. Sierra, who joined the District in July 2018 after almost 25 years as an operations manager in the private sector and almost 10 years as a buildings and grounds director for public schools in the South Suburbs.

"Bringing these certifications back to the District says that you have the knowledge to move forward and accomplish what needs to be done in a professional way."


Joe Sierra discusses the Elm Middle School construction project with site superintendent Bob Enger.

PHOTO: District 401 Buildings & Grounds Director Joseph Sierra (right) discusses the Elm Middle School construction project with Bob Enger, site superintendent from International Contractors, Inc. Click image to see a larger view. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)


To become a CPS, Mr. Sierra had to complete two days of intensive classwork last October on plant and facilities supervision. This covered four to six weeks worth of material and culminated in a 100-question examination. Topics included:

  • Leadership development
  • Time management
  • Effective communication skills
  • Front-line management skills
  • Business and industrial law
  • Industrial workplace safety
  • Finance and budgeting

For Mr. Sierra to become a CPMM, the workload increased to three days of courses in April on plant and facilities maintenance management. This also covered four to six weeks worth of material, but the program was capped by an exam twice the length of the previous one — 200 questions in four hours. Subjects included:

  • Preventive, predictive and reactive maintenance
  • Inventory controls
  • Computerized maintenance management software
  • Indoor air quality
  • Training and work cultures
  • Return on investments
  • Safety and health 

Mr. Sierra found out in February that he had passed the CPS exam, and he learned in July that he had succeeded as well on the CPMM test.

Given the ambitious scope of facilities projects going on in District 401, Mr. Sierra has plenty of opportunities to put his expertise to work — most notably with the renovation and expansion of Elm Middle School.

He makes daily visits to the Elm site and participates in weekly administrative meetings on the project. Also at these meetings are Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicolas Wade, Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations Mr. James Jennings, Technology Director Mr. Tom Kinane, Elm Principal Ms. Rebecca Siegel, Elm Assistant Principal Ms. Ashley Groeneveld and representatives from DLA Architects, Ltd., and International Contractors, Inc.

The work at Elm is in addition to the many projects that have already been completed elsewhere in the District during the past 12 months. These projects have included roof and masonry work at EPHS over the summer, along with the refinishing of the school's main gym and the resurfacing of its tennis courts.

"It's been a very busy year — very active," Mr. Sierra said. "I'm very happy to be here. I couldn't ask to work with a better group of people. From the administrators on down it's a great district to be associated with."


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