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New role, new work: Miller overseeing district building projects in Farmington

New Farmington District Director of Operations Dan Miller is transitioning into his new administrative role. He was working alongside a team to manage building construction projects at five elementary and two middle schools. Miller is pictured last month in the new office of Meadowview Elementary where constuction wrapped up for the beginning of the school year. Kara Hildreth / contributor

When Farmington School District was looking to hire a new operations director, the career opportunity intrigued Dan Miller.

"It very much intrigued me because I grew up doing construction work with my Dad and that is what he did, commercial construction," Miller said.

Miller learned about the building trades and construction projects during the summer months and on school breaks.

"I grew up doing anything and everything related to grounds and maintenance and it is something I have always enjoyed — I kind of enjoy getting my hands dirty and that is what I have been doing for the last six weeks and it has flown by," Miller said.

Miller, the former Boeckman Middle School principal, joined the Farmington district in 2005. Prior to leading Boeckman, he worked as an assistant principal at Farmington Middle School West. Before joining Farmington schools, he worked for neighboring Lakeville Public Schools.

Miller is thrilled to work in his new position where he can combine his hands-on skills as operations director with his passion for education. He can work in the schools as part of a larger team alongside principals, administrators and construction project managers.

Team transitioning

Since July, Miller transitioned summer project work away from Jane Houska, the district director of finance who has been juggling many long-term and short-term construction projects. Miller had fun getting up to speed on the new job.

Nearly all the schools in Farmington underwent exterior and interior construction projects on classroom additions and infrastructure, mechanical upgrades in the district's five elementary and two middle schools.

As the former Boeckman principal, Miller said he was able to get up to speed on all building projects. He worked closely with Greg Hultman from Hultman Group.

"The last six weeks have flown by and all my work has run the gamut from working with the building custodians and ground crews, and working with Jane, the city engineer and city planner," Miller said in an interview last month.

Elementary projects

In November 2015, Farmington voters approved a school levy and a building bond for $45 million to make building repairs, mechanical upgrades, roofs and many interior reconfigurations with offices. Many schools are seeing classroom additions.

"It will be really curious as people are coming back — students and families that haven't been by a building or in a building just to see their reaction because there is a lot of visible stuff happening," Miller said.

Meadowview Elementary received new pavement and concrete. Inside the school, the office was moved with security in mind to be closer to the east side and the school's exit. The school also received new alarm systems.

"The old office is now a music room and an art room and so we have re-allocated and re-shirted," Miller said. The old office space had high ceilings and so now the music teacher can teach students in a grander learning space, Miller said. The music room boasts portable risers in a space that looks like it was designed to teach music.

At Farmington Elementary School, the office was reconfigured but the location remained unchanged. The principal and counselor's office spaces were moved around.

"They reconfigured the office space to force people through the area and did a redesign with a vestibule with glass to better direct traffic," said Miller.

New classrooms are being added to Farmington Elementary on the south side and are slated to be complete in October if weather cooperates, Miller said.

New office space was redesigned and shifted at Akin Road Elementary. Classroom space was also shifted along with the nurse's area and staff lounges. New classrooms at Akin are making headway and will be done this fall and will be ready to be phased in the winter months.

"These buildings weren't designed to have secure entrances where we can control who was coming or going and sometimes you can do those types of things for a reasonable sum of money, and sometimes it requires the support from the community to generate funds to be able to create a significant relocate," Miller said.

Besides a new alarm system and new pavement, North Trail Elementary did not see any interior building remodels.

Riverview Elementary and Gateway Academy that are housed in the same building received work last summer. This summer the building is nearing completion on solar panel installation.

"The solar panels will save taxpayers in the long-term after we had decisions at our disposal to generate revenue and offset utility expenses, and when it comes to fruition that will be great," Miller said.

Middle school projects

The solar project at Dodge Middle School is nearly wrapped up. The building also has a new weight room after the school received grant funds.

Boeckman Middle School reconfigured its office and allocated more space for the nurse's area. The school saw classroom space remodeled. Tech education had a designated computer lab on end of the building and it was moved to be more efficient. The building also received some mechanical updates.

One gym floor at Boeckman saw water damage in the past year, so repair and restoration work has been underway. The gym should be operational by the end of September.

As a former principal who maintains a passion for education, Miller said now he can have a positive impact on Farmington school buildings and grounds to create better buildings for students to come learn and play.

"All our staff play different roles and impact kids and families differently, and sometimes it is our custodians that our kids go to, and it is that person they look forward to seeing every day."