Case Studies

Chuck Morris – Gold Trail School District 74

Facilities director brings decades of expertise to Gold Trail

Chuck Morris may be new to Gold Trail School District 74, but he comes with over 40 years of experience in Canadian public schools.

Since 1980, he’s worked at six districts throughout British Columbia and only diverted once, giving four years to the private sector. His love of schools has prevailed, though, and in October 2022, he became director of operations at Gold Trail.

Chuck Morris | Director of Operations | Gold Trail School District 74

Chuck Morris | Director of Operations | Gold Trail School District 74

“When my first opportunity came up to work in a school district, I jumped at it and from there it’s been a natural progression,” Morris says. “Every move has allowed me to take on more responsibility and build my creativity in how I deal with projects and issues.”

At Gold Trail School District 74, which is located northeast of Vancouver in Ashcroft, he’s been taking over projects started by his predecessor. The goal, he says, is to increase the district’s sustainability, which will reduce costs and create better learning environments.

“No one can learn in a classroom that’s not clean or is too hot or too cold,” Morris says. “I enjoy the challenge of solving problems that improve the experience of students and teachers.”

From the ground up

Gold Trail School District 74 is comprised of eight schools, which Morris oversees all facilities and operations for. The district is rural, serving only 1,100 students, and widespread geographically.

Morris and his team are working to install thermal ground source heat pumps throughout the district. The pumps work with indoor heating and cooling systems to transfer heat to and from the ground. One was installed at Lillooet Secondary School before he started and at least two more will be added at other schools over the next few years as funding becomes available.

“They’re expensive to put in, but once in we can do away with fossil fuels at those sites,” Morris says.

They’ll also result in cost savings, he adds. For example, the pump at Lillooet will save $18,295 in utility costs each year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by four tons.

Concurrently, Morris and his team are installing new unit ventilators in the schools along with heat and cooling recovery systems. They’ll be starting the project at Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School this summer and expect to have one-third to half of the ventilators up and running by the time school starts.

“We’re constantly looking at how to improve our heating and cooling and decrease greenhouse emissions,” Morris says. “It’d be irresponsible not to.”

Of course, the comfortability of students is important, too, which he says his team is keenly aware of.

“Everyone at the school district, all the way down to custodians, plays a role in the success of students,” he says.

Currently, Morris oversees a team of 50 employees. This is a stark difference from the last district he worked for—Greater Victoria School District No. 61—where 360 people reported to four or five managers, who then reported to Morris. But, regardless of team size, the importance of relationship building can’t be overlooked, he says.

“It’s important to understand other people and train future leaders within the department to make the team—and therefore the schools—stronger,” Morris says.

Connecting across districts

In addition to having background in business information technology and fire prevention training, Morris holds an inter-provincial Red Seal certification in the plumbing trade. The designation served him well in his first facilities role—he spent 19 years as a foreman in the plumbing department at Langley School District 35.

Located southeast of Vancouver, the district is comprised of over 40 schools. In 1999, Morris was promoted to manager of building trades, where he oversaw the multi-trade teams responsible for facilities and equipment maintenance. Five years later, he was hired as the director of facility services at Coast Mountains School District 82 in northwestern British Columbia.

Morris stayed in the role for three years before becoming director of operations for Comox Valley Schools – School District 71. Four years later, in September 2011, he left to try his hand at something new and work in the private sector. He spent four years in the modular building industry before returning to public schools as the director of facilities at Saanich School District 63 in 2016. He then held the same title at the Greater Victoria School District No. 61 from 2018 to 2022, before starting at Gold Trail, SD No. 74.

Throughout his career, Morris has been involved with the School Plant Officials Association and the Educational Facility Managers Association, having served as president of each for several years. The organizations allow him to collaborate with other facilities leaders in Canadian public schools at meetings and conferences.

“It’s such a benefit for all of us to bounce ideas off each other and troubleshoot issues,” Morris says. “The networking we get is bar none.”

Outside of work, he enjoys hiking, ziplining and whale watching. He also is interested in photographing nature and wildlife.

“Being outdoors allows me to reinvigorate myself, relax and think about strategies at work to help with whatever direction I am focused on to allow successful completion of any number of projects,” Morris says.

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.

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