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How One Buildings and Grounds Manager is Creating a Better Environment

 Article written by:  Donna Martini for New Jersey’s School Leader Magazine


Anthony Voiro is one of many buildings and ground’s managers who believe kids and teachers deserve the most brilliant environment he can create.  And it wasn’t something he learned.  Most likely, Anthony is one of many people who innately “feel” energy in a space, using all of their senses to pick up negativities in color, space, flow, and even attitude.  This incorporation of ‘feeling out the negativity’ along with desire for positive change adds up to what is now commonly referred to as “Feng Shui”:  The ancient Chinese art and science of designing natural and man-made surroundings for empowerment and positive energy.

Although seemingly a catch phrase for the design movement nowadays, Feng Shui (pronounced “Feng Shway” and translated as wind and water) has serious roots of origin.  It is the utilization of furniture, doorway, and window placement, color, movement and texture of materials to create a more balanced and positive environment for life, work and study.

Anthony admits that he wasn’t aware of his proclivity for positive chi energy, but he was certainly aware of the negative conditions that were precluding the school from being more appealing to its daily inhabitants.  After only his first week of employment with Shawnee High School in Medford, New Jersey), he set out to eliminate any cause of possible negative influence. 


Starting with the visual, he immediately contracted a painting company to spray all existing lockers in one color, creating a uniform hallway instead of the un-matched chipped paint that so blatantly ran through the corridors.  This instantly created a flow and orderly feel.  Along the same venue, Anthony asked his students, “What can I do to help keep all of you from littering the halls?”  The answer back was simple; “Give us trash cans.”  And so it was done and the hall litter was eliminated.


Anthony didn’t stop there.  Before he could continue to reinvent the neglected school, he needed the full support of staff, some of whom had not cared about their environment for some time.  Mr. Voiro called a meeting of his custodial staff and told them of his dream to make the school a place where everyone would love to come to work.  He went on to tell them about how important their job was to the kids, as important as a teacher, because ‘kids won’t want to learn if they aren’t happy with their surroundings’.  Lastly he asked for everyone’s cooperation.  Anthony understood that pessimistic or unconstructive attitudes would create a downbeat atmosphere and there was no room in his building for that. 

Within a short time, everyone was on board and the changes rapidly continued.  The bathrooms were cleaned up and made to feel homey, some even stocked with silk flowers.  Garbage and clutter were removed from all around the premises, condensing down to one section where it could be easily contained.  Anthony started to condense cleaning products as well, going from 40 different surface cleaners down to only a few which were

environmentally safe and less toxic to breathe.  This helped the students as well as the custodians.  He also changed filters on the HVAC system improving air quality so drastically that the school officials can actually quantify the reduction in absences among teachers and students.  Lighting was improved, sometimes just by changing bulbs, but as budget allowed, new fixtures were also added, taking away the glum dimness and turning the work areas and halls into bright environments.

As the school was manipulated, so were attitudes in more ways then can be imagined. The custodians appreciated their jobs, now having a sense of importance and a mission.  Teachers and teens felt more pride in their classrooms and in fact, when there was litter or spillage, the students were the first to grab a mop or pick the paper up off the floor.  The Feng Shui or positive manipulation of the school was also transforming attitudes.  Of course Anthony was the driving force but the principal, Mr. Charles Fleischman, was actually the perpetuator, initially seeking out the right person to transform the surroundings, and then giving his new buildings and grounds manager the freedom and resources to do the job.  He states, “We need to remember what the kids see.  It’s not just a building to house students.  It’s a learning facility.  It can hinder their education or help it thrive.  It’s the start of their day and sometimes the only nice environment they go to.  It can stimulate or masticate, encourage or disparage.”

Anthony relates his sentiments as profoundly reminding us that just a nice, clean color on the walls can brighten a monotonous day.  Imagine being a teen again, your mere existence seems confusing, but now you have to go to an untidy environment every school day, dreary and poorly lit, with 7 different colors painted on the walls.  There are water fountains that don’t work and furniture that is broken and unmatched.  Anthony (who is a C.E.F.M. or Certified Educational Facilities Manager) firmly avows that this can only increase the chaos and disorder, interfering with a child’s ability to focus and learn.  Both the Principal and buildings and ground’s staff agree, “Environment is as important as what we are teaching.  After all, if the kids aren’t comfortable, they are not concentrating so the best curriculum could be mentally disregarded.”   

Although Anthony Voiro and his ability to cut through negative energy may seem an anomaly, he really is not.  Fortunately for Shawnee, he was selected and placed in the perfect position for his skill, not unlike many men and women in his position.  But unfortunately, scores of facilities personnel do not feel as empowered by their administration and school boards.  They lack the funds and encouragement, making their efforts more like mountains to climb instead of elementary job functions.

Anthony and his district know the importance of incorporating all aspects of sensory and emotional learning.  As Shawnee’s Principal tells us, “How the kids feel about their school can take them through their entire life”.  Anthony agrees, stating, “School pride is a wonderful thing and that’s what I believe my job is all about!”



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