When Doug Renkosik joined Huntley Community School District 158 in 2002 as the Director of Operations and Maintenance, the district was on the edge of dramatic changes. The student population was growing at breakneck speed. One elementary school had to be expanded four times before they even opened the doors.

Renkosik’s education in structural and geotechnical engineering gave him expertise to contribute as the buildings he would continue to manage for the next two decades were built. He’s also been part of the process as the district had to decide which services to do in-house and which to outsource.

Headshot of Doug Renkosik in front of solar panels.

Today, with more than 1.5 million square feet of interior space spread out over nine buildings — as well as outdoor spaces to maintain — the district has more than 25 service contracts. These include jobs such as snow removal, lawn mowing, and preventative maintenance for large HVAC equipment.

Renkosik’s experience has given him tried-and-true strategies for maintaining successful contractor relationships, as well as bridging the gap between contracted teams and in-house staff.

Renkosik shared a few best practices with us as he reflected on his long career at D-158, which he’ll retire from later this year.

1. Do quality inspections regularly.

The district uses a hybrid model for housekeeping in schools, which combines in-house day custodians with outsourced mid-shift and evening personnel.

Renkosik asks his staff to do regular inspections, as well as including them in work agreements with outside teams. “By measuring it, you see improvement,” Renkosik said. “Once people know we’re watching, they perform better.”

These regular checks have many benefits, but one is that the work itself improves when people know that someone is paying attention to the work being done. Documenting both slips in quality control along with reports (and photos!) of a job well done helps solidify the message that the quality of the work being done really matters.

“I’ve had contractors over the years tell me, the reason we’re so successful is because the people know we’re watching.”

2. Cross-inspect the work.

Regular inspections help keep everyone aware of the quality of work being done, both by in-house teams and contractors.

In the mornings, in-house custodial staff inspect the work done overnight by the contractors; in the evenings, contracted supervisors do their own inspections to capture quality.

Contracted teams will also provide documentation of their services to the district, sometimes through inspections in OrangeQC. The in-house teams then inspect the work’s quality, ensuring that quality standards are being met.

3. Treat outside teams as partners.

While outsourcing makes sense for D-158 in many cases, it’s not enough to just make the hire. At the end of the day, Renkosik said, “it’s the school district’s responsibility to track what’s going on.”

Renkosik says it’s unrealistic to expect that you can hire someone, give them the keys, and expect everything to go smoothly. Especially with housekeeping, close communication is paramount.

“I’ve learned over the years that a good service contract in that area, you build a really tight relationship. A partnership. . . . We have meetings just like they’re my own staff. In fact, maybe even more intense, because when they’re outsourced, there’s usually a few more bumps in the road.”

This approach helps clearly communicate expectations and makes it more immediately obvious when they aren’t being met. It also removes some of the unnecessarily adversarial “us vs. them” attitudes that can cause these relationships to be more challenging than they need to be.

4. Use digital inspection technology.

Renkosik said that using OrangeQC for quality control has “just enhanced everything. It’s just creating this energy that performance is better.”

“I’m seeing that my people are doing more inspections because it’s easy,” he told us, noting that some of his staff members who previously had a hard time getting one inspection done a month are now turning in three a week. “They don’t have to take a notepad around, you don’t have to do the whole building in one day.”

Additionally, supervisors can now send information easily in a way that works well for them and for Renkosik.

One of his team members would routinely send over inspections with dozens of photos and notes from a building that needed to improve housekeeping performance. The information was valuable, but it was hard to organize before OrangeQC. Now, it’s all automatically sorted into the right places and tracked over time.

“It was a lot of work on his end, and then it was a lot of work on my end. Now, every day, I get an email at 5 o’clock. It’s so easy to get to it. It saves a ton of time.

5. Cut out the “middle man” when possible.

Rather than just inspecting contractors, Renkosik says it often makes sense to put tools and technology right in the hands of the people doing the work.

“I lean on those folks to actually be using OrangeQC,” he said. “They love it.”

For example, one contractor handling groundskeeping was having a hard time delivering the weekly documentation of services required by the contract. Renkosik suggested the manager give the crews themselves access to OrangeQC. Now, they can take photos and document the services being done directly.

The supervisor loved the idea, which removed the burden from him to get the photos from the crews and then send them onto the district. The crews can now work directly in the system to document the work they’ve done.

Conclusion: Good communication that flows both ways

Bringing everyone (both in-house and contracted) onto one quality control platform allows the team to easily see inspections, service validations, and communication. Renkosik actively manages relationships with contractors, continually checking on quality. The end result? Contracted and in-house employees alike know the district notices their effort — and they deliver better service because of it.

A huge thanks to Doug Renkosik for sharing his experience and expertise with us!

If your educational facilities team is looking for a digital quality control solution, feel free to set up a free one-on-one demo so we can show you how OrangeQC can work for your team.