Education column: New operations director takes helm

The Clovis Municipal Schools’ operations department has a new face.

Jody Balch, the new director of operations, replaces Gene Bieker, who retired at the end of July.

Balch phrased it differently: “Gene is someone you don’t replace; you just hope you can come in and continue the quality of work he’s done.” Modest words coming from an individual with his own unique set of skills and talents.

Actually we welcome Balch, not exactly to the district, but rather back to the district. Balch spent 13 years at Clovis High School teaching electronics and power mechanics, followed by a two-year stint teaching industrial arts at Yucca Junior High. After that, he went into administration, securing a position first as assistant principal for two years, then principal for the next seven years, both at Yucca. The next move was to CHS as principal for the next five years. After that, Balch tried retirement for about a year, then emerged, taking an administrative position in another district.

When the opportunity arose in the CMS operations department, Balch decided to try a new challenge in education.

“As a principal I’d always enjoyed working with our maintenance and operations staff and, in fact, have always been amazed at the dedication of our maintenance folks and their loyalty to the district,” Balch said.

Also, the time had come for a new challenge.

Balch’s education combined with his long-term administrative experience brings a unique perspective to the new position. Tackling new challenges, including numerous construction projects along with the standard operations fare, the district has already benefited from Balch’s past experience.

“Sitting in on numerous construction meetings, it’s easy to see that what architects design and what builders build does not always fit budget-wise,” Balch said.

As far as procedures go, things will continue as in the past with detailed long-range planning, checklists, and wish lists per school site. Xeriscaping will increase at some locations.

“Everyone wants to plant a tree, but we have to think about who’s going to water it,” Balch said. “We’ve done some major cleanup at Ranchvale Elementary: Removing broken-down fencing, dead trees and shrubs; adding some colored rock and repairing drainage at the rear of the building to keep the water away from the building. We’ll be doing similar work at Cameo. It’s important that all of our facilities are kept in the best shape possible. Our schools should be clean and inviting and have curb appeal.”

At the high school work is being done on the courtyard and includes graded drainage to address damage from long-standing snow and ice on relatively new concrete, cleaning up courtyard concrete planters with dying shrubs and trees, and colorful wind sail canopies added to provide shade for the area.

Balch said the pace has been hectic.

“I had 52 calls in one day,” Balch shared, chuckling. “Things are leveling out, however, and the future looks optimistic.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at: