As park district grows, comittee looks at how to improve

Chuck Balling, executive director of Glenview Park District, opens the
discussion Monday on the district's 2014-18 strategic plan.| Todd
Shields/Sun-Times Media
Chuck Balling, executive director of Glenview Park District, opens the discussion Monday on the district's 2014-18 strategic plan.| Todd Shields/Sun-Times Media

GLENVIEW — In 15 years the Glenview Park District has markedly grown in buildings and programs, and now district managers believe it’s time to better train frontline staffers who deliver services to its customers.

“Quite frankly, we need to catch up in these areas,” said Bob Quill, district superintendent of operations.

‘We’ve grown so explosively, we had no understanding of what we had built, no clue,” Quinn said, referring to the Park Center, Wagner Farm, The Grove, golf courses, public prairies and museums.

Quinn and other district officials emphasized the need to look inward and consider ways to employee performance and operations, not that they were seriously lacking, they added.

For the third time in eight years, staff and advisory residents met Monday night to mull over a strategic plan for the district.

Monday’s presentation was for the 2014-18 plan, of which district commissioners could formally approve in November.

The well-attended discussion included an advisory committee of community representatives who studied the suggestions and views of staffers.

They met at a recent retreat, resulting in a 195-page planning report guided by the principals of customer experiences and safety, diverse programming, fiscal soundness, employer of choice and partnerships with local governments and community organizations, among other guide lines.

Some people suggested the district should provide certification programs for employees.

“We would be expecting you to do that,” said resident Bob Moore, a member of the advisory committee.

Quinn also suggested hiring a central purchasing manager for the district so that superintendents could spend more time on customer service and department operations.

“We buy millions of dollars. Do we want to look at centralized purchasing? We’re here tonight to evaluate goals,” he said.

Rosie Fasching, a district summer intern, delivered a report on staff development and retaining employees.

“We’re seeing workers going from the public sector to the private more and more. How do we attract quality people to the park district,” she said, adding turnover was more common in the industry, as well as early retirement.

Bill Attea, who was superintendent of Glenview School District 34 for 24 years, said nearly half of the park district’s full-time staff was more than 50 years old.

“These are real issues,” he said.

The park district employs 105 full-timers and more than 1,000 part-time people, many of them high school and college seasonal workers.

“We need to do constant mentoring with these first-time workers because it’s a safety issue and they’re learning to do a job for the first time,” said Jim Shellard, assistant principal of student activities for Glenbrook High School District 225 in Glenview and Northbrook.

“With part-timers in high school and college, you hope to bring them back so you wouldn’t have to train them over and over. How do we keep them happy,” said resident Bob Rowlands.

The park district’s executive director, Chuck Balling, said the district was the village’s biggest employer for students in high school and college.

Monday’s meeting included discussions on exceptional customer service and increased operational efficiency through technology.

The discussion continued on Wednesday night at Park Center.

“We have a wonderful culture here and we want to make sure we have strong leaders with communication skills,” said Park Board President M.J. Coulson.

“Making sure that we are agile in thinking and receptive to the public. We want to make sure we are employers of choice,” she said.

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