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Longtime Oswego School District 308 Employee Retiring

Jul 01, 2015 12:04PM ● By Steven Jack

Bill Baumann is officially retired after serving School District 308 for 38 years. (Submitted photo)

 Inside Bill Baumann’s desk is a tattered folder with stickers on it that he calls his “smile file.”
In his file, School District 308’s Director of Operations has kept positive correspondences received from students, teachers and members of the community over the duration of his 38-plus-year career.
At the end of June, Baumann is retiring from his position with the district. He recently thumbed through those correspondences while reflecting on his long career with School District 308.
“Oswego has been a great place to work,” Baumann said. “The people have been extremely caring.”
Baumann has always liked to build things, and he determined early after graduating from high school that he wanted to work with his hands. His role with the district afforded him the opportunity to do just that.
The Beginnings of a Career
After a brief stint doing sales, service and delivery for the Elgin Water Softener Co.,Baumann wanted a position closer to his home that involved less travel.
Thompson Junior High School was being built at the time, so he contacted the director of buildings and grounds, and found the district had an open position in the Maintenance Department. He began work without any weighty expectations for either the position … or the district.
“At that point, I was merely thinking that I wanted to do a good job,” he said. “If it worked out to be a career job, fine. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
Baumann started on Aug. 1, 1977. By 1986, he was the assistant director of operations and in 1991 was named its director.
When Baumann started his employment, the district had just six schools and a fraction of its current enrollment. He witnessed a lot of growth and change during his tenure.
Job Satisfaction
Baumann knows that in a lot of cases not getting feedback meant the Operations Department had done a good job. But he also kept his “smile file” as a way to enjoy the best.
“Seeing a project start and seeing it completed to the satisfaction of everybody makes you feel good as well,” he said. “If there are no complaints, that’s good. If you get a positive note on top of it, that is extra special.”
He also enjoyed helping District 308 students and teachers secure summer jobs helping out the district’s grounds crew.
“It makes you feel good when you can help someone and they turn out to be a good employee,” he said.
Baumann recalled a former student, Phil, who helped the department during the summer months. Phil was the type of employee Baumann knew could manage a crew and “complete whatever task needed to be done.” Baumann said Phil went on to become an attorney.
A Sea of Changes
As the district grew, Baumann knew he would need to change his management style. When the district — and the Operations Department — were smaller, he could involve himself in more of the day-to-day work.
“Back then I was more hands-on,” he said. “I’ve done everything that a custodian has done, that a groundskeeper has done, that a painter has done,  and that the maintenance guy has done."
“I’ve done it all, so I have all the past experience. I know what my employees have gone through and the work they have to do. So I understand where they are at.”
And if someone could not do the work, Baumann knew he would be able to do it. As the district grew, however, his managerial duties mounted. Building relationships with employees has been one of Baumann’s priorities, since he would ultimately need to ask them to do the work.
Technology has changed considerably over the time Baumann’s been on the job, right down to the cleaning tools.
“You don’t have just mops. You have microfiber mops,” he said. “There are improvements that have helped that field immensely. We cannot only get it done quicker, but also better.”
Computers have also improved the maintenance process.
“It is definitely easier, as long as the computers are working,” he said. “But they are still a piece of equipment, and they still fail.”
Prepping for Retirement 
As Baumann winds down through his last month of employment with the district, he is looking over his career accomplishments.
“Every day something pops into my head, and I find myself saying, ‘This will probably be the last time I do this,’ ” he said. “It’s a strange, sad feeling. I look at things that I built or that I’ve done, and I say, ‘I remember installing that fence, or working on that building addition.’ Every time I walk by a particular district building, I see something.”
Baumann will be spending more time with his wife, Teresa, who retired from School District 308 after 27 years as a building secretary last year. He also has two grandsons, Luca and Liam, who he will probably see more of, but he will need more than family to fill his time.
Ever since his days playing football, swimming and basketball for Illinois’ East Aurora High School, Baumann has liked staying busy.
“Everybody is asking 'what is your plan?' ” he said. “I don’t have a plan. I’m going to take some time off to rest and reflect. I will do something else. I won’t be able to just sit at home.”