Thirty-five year Maintenance Dept. manager Paul Leeper is a reminder that school buildings – like education and student learning – have a history of progress.
Like the phases of buildings’ lives, Leeper is also preparing for his own retirement from the district this summer.
When he joined Spring Branch ISD in 1985, Leeper worked in many schools and offices built when air conditioning was never a forethought.
“The older buildings we have been tearing down were built only for heat, not really for air [conditioning]. You opened the windows way back when. A huge hall fan sucked in the air for the classroom. That was the way they did it,” he recalls.
Hot or cold. Chilly or sweaty.
“We had a time when [a building] did either cooling or heat. You generally put up with whatever the season and time was. Today, we have people complaining if the temperature is a single degree off,” Leeper said.
Many older SBISD schools – mostly elementaries – have either been rebuilt, or will be replaced soon, under bond programs approved by district voters in 2007 and 2017.
His job title is envelope manager. The title refers to a big management operation that impacts students, teachers and staff each and every day – maintaining air quality, efficiency and comfort levels across 6.4 million square feet of district buildings.
The right quality filter can make a difference. “We do think that we are on the right track here on what we’re doing,” said Leeper. “We have good, clean air.”
Early in his career, Leeper recognized he liked to work with his hands. He worked in maintenance at Sam Houston State (where he met his wife, Barbara) for several years, and then attended Texas State Technical Institute (TSTI). He earned an associate’s degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) there.
When Leeper and his wife moved to Houston, he worked in commercial business and then spent one year in Friendswood ISD before joining SBISD.
He’s worked in the same SBISD Facilities and Operations building on Gessner for 35 years, changing offices every so often.
In a nod to a well-worn education term, “other duties as assigned,” his current position also includes the collection of syringes and unclaimed medications from school-based clinics, as well as science lab-related animal dissections.
“Paul Leeper is a longtime employee who was always willing to assist when asked,” said James Mora of SBISD Facilities. “Paul knows this district well, and he has worked in numerous areas throughout his career. He took each of them seriously, making sure he created a safe learning environment for all.”
The Leepers, who have one adult son, a Rummel Creek Elementary and Stratford High graduate, are planning for joint retirement. The couple plans to begin clearing a piece of land located out near Bastrop.
“It depends on who is at the helm, but Spring Branch has been a good place to be. The people we have here are really nice to work with. There are good workplace relations, and a real camaraderie here,” he said.
“Mr. Paul has been a huge asset to Spring Branch ISD, and he is a huge part of our Facilities/Operations family,” said Travis Stanford, SBISD associate superintendent for operations. “We wish him the best as he prepares for retirement.”