Q&A with Dr. Kent Pettet – Franklin Township: Bunker Hill Elementary Principal.
Dr. Kent Pettet grew up in the Region of Indiana and attended Indiana University. His first job was teaching 5th Grade at Boone Grove Elementary School in Porter Township School Corporation. He moved to Colorado for five years while his wife went to grad school. He taught and became an Administrator before moving back to Indiana – now the Indianapolis area. After a few positions, he found his now home as Principal at Bunker Hill Elementary with the MSD of Franklin Township and loves the district.
Had you ever worked in a school during a renovation?
When I first came back to Indiana and started at Stout Field, Wayne Township was finishing a series of projects, but construction was just about done when I started. The renovation at Bunker Hill Elementary was my first time being a part of the whole planning process: looking at possible future educational trends, budget, schedule, etc.
Did you have any expectations going into it?
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. My district contact who was leading the project had talked with me about the total project budget, but I didn’t know what things actually cost. I was asked to create a list of things I felt needed to be updated and areas that needed improvement, so I did. I wasn’t even sure who lead the first meeting once we got started, or what to expect.
Was there anything you could have been given to help with your expectations?
Not really. When I went into the first meeting, everyone really listened to what I felt the school needed, I used the phrase “campus enhancement.” And everyone listened to what I felt those pieces were. I had no idea what anything would cost, so I didn’t know what was realistic. At the 2nd meeting, Schmidt Associates had developed cost estimates for the various campus enhancements I suggested. I was then able to get a grasp of what was realistic.
I felt integral in the process of picking out what we were going do. A lot things I suggested (the parking lot and stairs, new lower level storefront, etc.) made it through to the final piece. I also tried to look at things through the school lens. I made sure maintenance personnel were involved. They know the lifecycle of things like the chiller and water heater, so I felt it was important for them to be informed during design.
Looking back. Is there anything you would do differently?
Not really. We hit some stressors, but it was because of our aggressive timeline. All my contacts at Schmidt Associates were prompt responding to calls and emails. When I had questions, I got good answers and things were explained well, no matter who we were talking to.
The one thing was a water fountain. We couldn’t visualize the solution being proposed, so it would have been nice to be able to see it.
Overall, I felt comfortable, maybe too comfortable, asking questions and getting answers. I felt it was a great experience and our school looks beautiful. It is night and day different and the timing is perfect as we are celebrating 100 years of the school. The walls and lights are brighter. The cafeteria looks good and the stairs we connected to the classrooms help make it feel like a west coast campus being able to walk outdoors.
Any advice to a first-time principal?
Ask lots of questions. I was never afraid to ask lots of questions, so I would. We make assumptions, especially about things we think we know when it isn’t in our area of expertise. We don’t really know what it will take from a cost perspective or time perspective. A ceiling grid replacement isn’t as easy as you think. You need to look at the fire sprinklers, the electrical, wiring, lighting, etc. So be sure to ask as many questions as possible.