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Bender leaving Pa. school system

Served as supervison of buildings and grounds for Chambersburg district

Served as supervison of buildings and grounds for Chambersburg district

December 31, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Having managed tens of millions of dollars in building projects in the Chambersburg Area School District for more than 11 years, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds Richard Bender is resigning in February to take a position with Chevron Energy Solutions.

Bender, 48, is leaving as planning for an expanded Chambersburg Area Senior High School has just begun, a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School soon will go out for bids and construction of Fayetteville (Pa.) Elementary School is well under way.

"I've been happy at this district ... but I ran into a great opportunity I couldn't refuse," said Bender, who will be joining a company that has completed performance contracts on several Chambersburg schools.

Performance contracts essentially are upgrades of the electrical and heating and air-conditioning systems of a school, and can include other energy-saving improvements such as window replacement. Bender said he has overseen eight, including Chambersburg Area Senior High School, which cost about $11 million, as well as Faust Junior High School, Chambersburg Area Middle School and five elementary schools.

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"We had just short of $25 million in those eight buildings," Bender said.

During his almost 20 years with the district, Bender listed other projects, including the construction of South Hamilton, Hamilton Heights and Scotland elementary schools; expansion of the middle school; a just completed expansion of Hamilton Heights; and a $6 million reconstruction of Trojan Stadium.

The $21 million U.L. Gordy Elementary School project will be ready to go out for bids in March, Bender said.

"I always laugh when people say we aren't putting any money into our buildings," board member Stanley Helman said. "We've done a tremendous amount of work on the buildings in the past 10 to 15 years."

"The performance contracts are a way to upgrade a lot of buildings at a very reasonable cost," Helman said, allowing other technology upgrades to be installed at the same time.

"He gets along well with everyone and he's able to be creative in coming up with solutions to problems," Helman said of Bender.

In the past decade, Bender said school board members have approved projects that long had been deferred by previous boards. Big projects remain, including expanding the 50-year-old high school to accommodate 2,000 students, he said.

The board recently voted in favor of an expansion plan that could cost $70 million, and also has decided to upgrade the district's career and technology program to increase enrollment, although the exact method of doing so has yet to be decided.

"I don't think they have a direction on that yet," said Bender, a lifelong resident of the district. Options include building a wing onto the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, taking over the center or building a separate facility.

The district also must decide what to do with three other elementary schools that have seen little in the way of improvements since they were built decades ago - Coldbrook, Marion and New Franklin, Bender said.

"They're going to really have to do something, or they'll have a major failure" in one or more of the schools, he said.

"He's going to be missed. It's a big job," said Superintendent Joseph Padasak, who noted that Bender oversees about 100 employees. "It's very comparable to the Shippensburg University campus."

The district covers Chambersburg and five surrounding townships comprising 250 square miles. Its 20 schools are used by 10,000 people each day, Padasak said.

The board is scheduled to act on Bender's resignation at Wednesday's meeting, and Bender said his last day on the job will be Feb. 9.

About a dozen people have applied for the position, and some of the applicants will be selected for interviews in two weeks, Padasak said.

In his new job, Bender will be working in Pennsylvania and Maryland on performance contracts "from beginning to end."

"Construction is what I do best," he said.

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