Solving Problems and Jumping Rope: One MilVet’s Life as a Business Operations Manager
After serving in the military for over 11 years, John Bolsch joined Success Academy in May 2018 as a Business Operations Manager (BOM). John spent six of his years in the military in the 58th Special Operations Wing (SOW) at the Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School, where he worked as a Psychology Applications Manager and then as a Compliance Manager for the Inspector General. He first learned about Success Academy and the network’s striking results when he read an article by Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. John was impressed with not only SA’s academic program, but also its commitment to whole-child development and experiential learning. He now uses his background in developing efficient processes to increase system continuity to oversee daily operations for SA Prospect Heights and provide our scholars with an unparalleled educational experience.
We spent the day with John to learn more about what it takes to remain proactive and responsive to the fast-paced nature of school operations.
I live in New Jersey, so I wake up well before the sun rises. I tiptoe around the house, eat breakfast, and take care of my seven-month-old golden retriever puppy, Vice President Joe Bitin. I have a long commute, so I busy myself by reading on the train into New York. Since I started at SA in May 2018, I’ve read 45 books! My favorite so far is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
I believe scholars thrive in buildings that are orderly and clean, so before they arrive, I walk through the halls and pick up any trash I see. I also make sure there are no safety hazards in the hallways, cafeteria, or playground.
I have arrival duty once a week, when I greet each scholar on the way into school, and it’s by far my favorite way to start the day. I love how they present their victories to me from the night before: Proud owners of lost teeth shoot me toothless smiles; third-grade scientists excitedly display their Brooklyn Bridge model projects; and first graders giggle as they show me their newly learned “electric handshake.” When I’m not greeting scholars, I use this time to check in with my team (an Operations Coordinator and Community Relations Coordinator) and set the expectations for the day.
This time of morning is a little different every day for me. As a BOM, unexpected and urgent issues arise all the time, so I have to be ready and able to re-prioritize with my team. This morning, our third graders will explore the making of bread through a field trip to Key Foods as part of their Project Based Learning (PBL). I work with the Community Relations Coordinator (CRC) and the rest of my team to manage parent chaperones and ensure the busses arrive on time. It’s challenging handling the nuances of each day, but rewarding to see how much our scholars love school.
Once a week, I meet with my CRC to coordinate the logistics of school events and create a plan of attack for all parent-facing communications, which the CRC leads. In our meetings, we anticipate the victories and challenges of each school event and proactively set everything in place. Today, we discussed a time and location for the Slam the Exam week pep rally and ordering decorations for Teacher Appreciation Week.
I work closely with my Senior Leader every day, but it’s nice to have a weekly 1:1 to discuss team development and school processes. We use this time to go over overarching objectives for the year, but also to partner to correct issues that may have popped up during the day. Today, we discussed logistics for an event we are holding in Prospect Park, and reviewed my plans for getting a water fountain fixed quickly and ensuring all staff members have the right keys.
11:00 a.m. -12:00pm
Our Leadership Team consists of the Senior Leader, Assistant Principals, Education Manager, the Executive Assistant, and of course, the BOM. We meet every day and use this time to share updates, stay connected, and find out how we can support each other.
I use this time to problem-solve additional issues that may have come up during the day. I review my meeting notes and delegate tasks to my staff and might also check the bathrooms or monitor the hallways.
Nothing beats jumping rope with my third and fourth graders during recess! I’m there every day at 3:10pm, so we’re constantly challenging each other to see who can jump the longest, fastest, and coolest. I believe in structure, but I also believe that kids need unstructured time to have fun and make meaningful connections with their classmates.
Once a week, our staff comes together to discuss upcoming events, tests, or plans for the week. Today, we discussed the Math Assessment, making sure our teachers are on the same page regarding the general schedule, bathroom breaks, and test proctoring. These meetings are important for aligning staff vision, but I also aim to set a tone of appreciation. Our staff works hard, and I think it’s important to infuse regular celebrations of their efforts into our culture so that they feel supported.
As the day winds down, I use our checklist to do a final walk-through and ensure the school is secure. I am constantly making notes throughout the day, so I use this time to read them and complete urgent tasks. I also look over the calendar for the following day and review priorities with my team. I find doing this helps all achieve a healthy headspace with which to take on the next day’s tasks.
After a hard day’s work, I go home to my wife, two children, and of course, Joe Bitin the puppy! Last week, we planted an apple tree together. I cherish hearing about their days and spending time with them before they go to bed.