From substitute school janitor to Fairfield business director: Meet Lance Perry

Few have traveled the career path of Lance Perry, who two decades got his first job in a school as a substitute custodian and now has recently started his new position as Fairfield Schools Director of Business Operations. For Perry, the experience on the ground level has proved invaluable, he says, in helping him understand the facility needs of school teachers and staffers. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
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Few have traveled the career path of Lance Perry, who two decades got his first job in a school as a substitute custodian and now has recently started his new position as Fairfield Schools Director of Business Operations. For Perry, the experience on the ground level has proved invaluable, he says, in helping him understand the facility needs of school teachers and staffers. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Fairfield Schools’ new director of business operations knows school buildings from the ground up like few others in top district positions.

That happens when you started working your first job in schools as a substitute custodian two decades ago and then advanced your way to a directorship’s position as Lance Perry has.

Perry, who was hired from the business director’s job at Clermont County’s West Clermont Schools this spring, now oversees the facilities and bus fleet for Fairfield’s 10 schools, 10,000 students and hundreds of teachers.

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“I started in 2001 as a substitute custodian in Lakota Schools. I was very fortunate that my time at Lakota allowed for promotion and growth,” he said. “By the time I left (Lakota) 14 years later I was an administrator of buildings and grounds and I also graduated with my bachelor’s degree through the school district’s support as well.”

Perry, who is enrolled in Miami University’s Master of Business Administration program, said his past experience helps him understand the way buildings operate in all parts.

“And understanding the needs of a classroom and what that need could be is very important. Even a request like for (classroom) furniture. On paper, they (teachers) may request new furniture, and having an understanding how that impacts teaching and learning - or the curriculum department – and the way they are trying to craft together a classroom to better deliver instruction is helpful,” said Perry.

Perry is one of the latest in a series of new hires to take over leadership positions as schools prepare to start the coming school year next month.

School families, students and school staffers in Madison, Monroe and Kings districts will have new superintendents guiding them through the 2021-2022 school year.

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Most schools locally will start around the third week of August with some, like Lakota, Middletown and others, adopting a staggered class start date schedule to better ease students into a second consecutive year of learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Districts are using their experiences from employing a hybrid schedule – based alphabetically on the first letter of students’ last names. The new start-of-the-school-year calendar - used at times last year when new coronavirus cases were spiking – is now being applied again.

Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools, recently sent an announcement of the staggered start days to school families and staffers saying: “While we are eager for a more normal start to the new school year without some of last-year’s restrictions, there are some practices that we will continue because they worked exceptionally well. One of those is the staggered start.”

“Among other reasons, last year’s staggered start was intended to put teachers and students in a smaller group setting and accelerate relationship building. Overwhelmingly positive teacher and staff feedback suggested that this model did, in fact, facilitate staff and student connections,” said Miller.

In Fairfield Schools, Perry said he is getting to know the district’s business operations and is eager to try to improve them.

“Every school system has its own unique challenges,” said Perry, who added since starting July 1 he has been working with other top district officials to identify what those challenges are both short term and long term.

Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith said hiring Perry will make the district better.

“We are very excited about Lance joining our district leadership team. Lance’s passion for doing what is best for our students and families is aligned with our vision and mission,” said Smith.