At the Westchester Lower School, if you hear the sound of jangling keys, the static of a walkie talkie, and the thudding of sturdy boots, you can rest assured that help is on the way. Maintenance Supervisor Juan Jimenez has been the go-to person that Westchester Lower School folks call whenever a situation arises, and he is known by all for his friendliness, tireless work ethic, and ability to troubleshoot any problem.
Mr. Jimenez reached his 15-year work anniversary at Windward this past summer, and he proudly wears his pin marking the milestone on his lanyard. Before his arrival in 2006, he was doing maintenance work in Westchester, and he heard through a friend about an opening at The Windward School. Mr. Jimenez then began his tenure at the Westchester Middle School with a night shift maintenance position. After five years, he relocated to the Westchester Lower School at 13 Windward Avenue and switched to the morning shift.
For nine years, Mr. Jimenez knew every intricacy and detail of the 13 Windward Avenue building, from the electrical system to the boiler to the pipes. “I love learning new things about buildings every day, so I really enjoy my job,” said Mr. Jimenez. “There are always new challenges, so it’s definitely not routine work, but I am ready for anything.”
Over the years, there certainly have been some unexpected circumstances that Mr. Jimenez has faced. One morning, he received a message on his walkie talkie that there were five turkeys blocking the entrance to the school, but Mr. Jimenez was able to corral the animals and move them out of the way. During one new student orientation, a parent had unknowingly parked their car on top of a bee’s nest, so a swarm of bees surrounded the car. Mr. Jimenez and Associate Head of School Mr. Rosenshine were able to assist the parent by going through the trunk to open the car door and escape the bees.
But all of those unusual days paled in comparison to the challenges posed to the entire facilities team at Windward by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Moving to the new campus [at 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue] was one of the most difficult times,” said Mr. Jimenez. “Our team, we can do anything, so the work itself wasn’t difficult, but it was just the timing of how fast we needed to move and having enough manpower to do it was tough.”
Mr. Jimenez led the Westchester Lower School maintenance team of seven and other members from other campuses to move all the hundreds of desks, bookshelves, office furniture, technology equipment, bulletin boards, classroom supplies, and more from the 13 Windward Avenue building to the new Westchester Lower School campus in a matter of days.
“It didn’t seem possible to get everything done, but we somehow made it happen,” said Mr. Jimenez. “The day before school opened at the new campus, we had boxes up to the ceiling. But everyone put extra hours in and were amazing. It was a full team effort, because we had people from Westchester Middle School and Manhattan helping us too to get the job done.”
When the teachers arrived on site, all their classroom materials were ready for them to set up, their students’ desks were measured to be spaced six feet apart, and the spaces were diligently cleaned, thanks to the behind-the-scenes work of the facilities crew.
Now having been at the Westchester Lower School campus for a little over a year, Mr. Jimenez is still learning the particulars of the new building. He oversees the overall maintenance, which includes HVAC, lighting, building safety, parking, traffic, grounds conditions, landscaping, boilers, and pumps. “When something happened at 13 Windward, I immediately knew what it was and could fix it. I’m getting to know the systems here at this building, but I like the opportunity to grow and educate myself more.”
Through just his daily morning routine, Mr. Jimenez has been getting more acquainted with all the building components. His rounds include checking the HVAC system, lights, boiler, fuel, hot water, and alarms throughout the whole building. In between his rounds, he assists with directing arrival and dismissal traffic and supporting the faculty and staff with their maintenance needs.
“I like being in the school environment and helping to take care of the building so it’s a good and safe place for the students,” said Mr. Jimenez. “As a parent I know you’re happy when you know your child is safe, so I’m happy to be part of the system to make the school work in that way. Without anyone doing their job, Windward can’t function, and it’s a great community here.”
Mr. Jimenez’s contributions to the Westchester Lower School community were formally recognized last June, as he was named one of the “Heart of Windward” award winners. This award recognizes a faculty or staff member from each campus that is exemplary in their commitment to the community and is a champion of the School’s core values of commitment, growth, impact, and community.
Some of the submissions nominating Mr. Jimenez read:
“Juan goes above and beyond to help us with so much—from helping to carry heavy things to or from our cars, to helping box up and unbox and box again an entire building. Thank you!”
“He is always there to help us with removing critters from our rooms, catch water leaking from a ceiling pipe, our occasional car trouble or car that won’t start, or keeping an eye on the building through a storm when we are all safely at home.”
“Juan takes his job seriously, but he does his work with a good sense of humor.”
“He never gets mad or upset when I call about a problem. He says it happens then fixes it. Thank you for your patience!”
“Juan is always running around the building to help keep us up and running. He not only takes care of the building, but us teachers and staff too.”
“He has a fun and great attitude with the children, like dressing up for holidays or spirit days!”
Upon receiving the honor, Mr. Jimenez was left speechless. “It was so unexpected, it was a total surprise! I was very happy and thankful at the same time, but everyone in my department deserved that too because it is never just me doing the work. None of what we do is a one-man job—it is a true team effort.”
Although he never knows what each day at Windward will bring—a broken pipe, a leaky window, a missing desk, or all three at the same time—Mr. Jimenez can always be counted on to be there and lend a helping hand.
Top 5 Things Mr. Jimenez Hears Every Day
“My room is too hot.”
“My room is too cold.”
“Can you help me with exiting the parking lot?”
“Can you help me move ______?”
“Help! There’s a bug in my room!”