For Bruce Hardison, the quickest path to any destination is a straight line. Yet he often detours through the Alternative Learning Center and Freshman High School when heading to HHS construction projects.
“Walking down those hallways now – they are no longer just buildings that were construction sites I was at every day,” Hardison says with some sense of pride. “They’ve come to life with teachers and kids. When we open the buildings with ribbon cuttings, that’s exciting. But the best part is seeing kids in classrooms every day and realizing we’ve given them an excellent place to get an education.”
Detours are nothing new to Hardison, who also took a jog in the road to retirement.
After spending 32 years working as an HMS teacher and administrator, he collected his figurative gold watch in 2002 and soon after went to work for Habitat for Humanity.
But Hardison was called back to the education fold in March 2009 when it came time for the district to hire somebody to oversee the day-to-day progress of the largest building projects in school history. Then-Supt. Cliff Burch figured Hardison’s combination of construction experience and years in education made him the ideal choice. Current HMS Supt. TJ Parks agreed. “We couldn’t have asked for a better fit,” Parks said. “Bruce knew student and teacher needs and had the construction know-how.”
“I had a hard hat and pair of gloves and I had spent a lifetime in education – both from the teaching side and administrative side,” Hardison said. “It was the best job you could ask for.”
That’s because Hardison was no longer responsible for budget crunching or supervising personnel. His sole responsibility was to ensure that every dollar of the $47 million voters approved in the April 2008 bond election was spent wisely. It was a task that Hardison – a Vietnam Naval aviator who flew 248 missions - took seriously.
“I think he did a great job for the taxpayers,” architect Frank Mackay said. “He was a wealth of information because he knew a lot of the infrastructure and needs of the buildings that weren’t on the drawings. Plus, he has an understanding of a variety of trades and was able to communicate to different types of people exactly what was needed.”
For the past 20 months Hardison has been on multiple job sites (see box) every week day and many weekends. Because he was on the original Facility Assessment Community Team (FACT) that recommended the bond, his project knowledge and oversight extended from concept to completion. Along the way, the former teacher learned some lessons of his own about large scale construction projects as varied as the buildings themselves.
“Each job has different issues,” Hardison said. The HHS Commons, for example, required the precise placement and installation of specialized ovens and freezers. The Freshman High School and Alternative Learning Center needed computer networking and communication system capacity that would serve the buildings for decades to come. And all of the projects required compliance with the American Disability Act. “An additional push button door was added at the lunch room high school entrance – not because we were required to do it but because it made sense for kids,” he said.
Hardison’s job is winding down - coinciding with the depletion of bond funds and completion of major projects. One major upcoming project is set to be complete in January - the remodeling of the old library into new offices for HHS, which are scheduled to open in January.
But the fact the work pace is slowing down only means Hardison will keep an ever more watchful eye on renovations that will be funded by state monies, projects which include a facelift for two more HHS wings and landscaping.
“When everything’s done in a couple years, the area is going to be totally different,” Hardison said. “If you haven’t driven down Sanger in a while, you’ll be shocked. There’s a whole new look that’s only going to continue. It’s a whole new dimension for the school district.”