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#2076374 - 05/03/13 01:11 AM On the job at the SDUSD
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Day 4 as the SDUSD piano tech:

Including the Shout House, I've tuned 15 pianos so far this week, and if things go according to plan, I'll get at least three more in tomorrow. At the start of the week, there was a backlog of 56 work orders. My goal is to clear them by the end of the school year.

I work for the equipment repair division of Physical Plant Operations; after all, pianos are equipment, right?

My work day runs from 6am to 2:30pm currently, but, once I'm made permanent and I get a better sense of schedules at the various sites I see the most, I can change my hours to suit.

I'm learning that the biggest challenge is to avoid wild goose chases. I receive work orders, which are either planned maintenance, or a work request. So far, they have very generic information on them; no contact person, and the piano is in no way specifically identified. So, I have to call each site, try to find out who the key individual is, find out which piano(s) need what work, then schedule a time when the piano(s) will be available for me to work on them. I've had two instances already, where, after contacting the site and finding who I thought was the key person (it can be either or both the head custodian or one of the music teachers), got a time scheduled, then went out, only to find the piano(s) are unavailable, and, in one instance where a stage dolly needed to be installed on a grand, it was the wrong site; all of their grands already had stage dollies.

My plan is to put together a little black book of who the key people are at each site. so I'l know who to call next time. It turns out this is the challenge for just about every department at PPO.

Also, it's apparent that the district doesn't have anything close to an accurate inventory of what pianos they have. We're estimating that it is probably more like 600+ pianos. My solution to that is to carry a stack of new inventory item sheets, and fill one out for every piano I see at a site. So far, there has been one case of a fairly new school - with new pianos - missing one (fearing it might be in someone's home!), and two sites where there were as many as twice the number of pianos there than the master list had on it. Once again, no specific identification of individual pianos.

Your tax dollars at work...

Over the long haul, I still want to grade the pianos based on condition, but, for now, I think it's more important to get a sense of what we have.
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2076427 - 05/03/13 04:37 AM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3843
Hi Jim. Good to see you are jumping right in! It sounds like the first thing you need to do is get control of the requests for work. You should not have to call to confirm incomplete work orders. I would take all the incomplete work orders and bounce them back to the school's principal for complete information. You don't have time to chase down missing information. All communication with schools should be via email so records can be kept. Every teacher should have a school email address, as should you. My contact with schools is always the music teacher and it's nearly always via email.

Before next school year, I'd suggest you get control of the inventory. There are computer programs available for this, or create a spreadsheet or database, or use paper file for each piano. I would suggest getting the schools to email you a list of models and serial numbers and condition of each piano in their school. You don't have time right now to visit each school yourself. That will come later and you can confirm things then.

This is what I mean, 80 hours a week, initially. If you want to start next school year in good shape, you have lots to do right now. I would not tune anything until you have the inventory and work order system under control. without that, you are tuning blind. You can't be bringing pianos into that workshop till it's set up either. Do you have a tool budget?

What is the condition of the pianos you have tuned thus far?



_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2076487 - 05/03/13 08:36 AM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
Ah, yes. Now the real story is coming into focus.

You have inherited years of disorganization obviously shared by the bureaucracies of the system(s) of which you are now a part, courtesy of a go-with-the-flow mentality. (Cry me a river. Yeah, yeah.) Now we can clearly see how your predecessor handled all this supposed work load and, yet, had his own side business: For the sake of our mental health, most of us would end up with the same approach as he could have chosen: tolerate the school job, but put his psyche into the side work. He DIDN'T handle "all this" pile of work!

What happens when you begin to hear, "It's not my job" too often? THIS is what happens. The managers above you are the culprits, to a great extent. You can change it most during the honeymoon period, after you have this position confirmed, but your chances of changing much in a huge bureaucracy may not be so great.

Bob's advice is good. Improving the work request form and/or insisting on having the proper information and contact information is the best place to start. What is happening thus far is ridiculous, but they don't seem to know that.

Bob mentioned working 80-hours per week to get this under control. I am sure he meant after you are verified as the permanent employee, and he seemed to mean after this initial push to get the year-end work backlog completed. After all, if you don't please these early customers, thereby pleasing the one who is hiring you, you won't have to worry about next year anyway, right?
Can you tell that no one has worked 80 hours per week around there for a long, llllong, time ?

Depending upon many things, there may come a day during the next few weeks for you to say this to your immediate boss -the one who decides on your fate:
"You have seen my work and have seen the improvements that I want to implement [referring to organizational ones]. From my standpoint, I am in the process of deciding whether I want this job. My question today is, 'Are we going to make these improvements?'"

Otherwise, just hop on the *Gravy Train ... and don't worry about it.

Hoot, Hoooot, Hoot
We can all tell: It will be a kerrrazy ride!
How much gravy is in that ladle, anyway?
Must be a lot!

*refer to previous thread on the subject: Almost 500 Pianos (let's try this again)
_________________________
Lavender Piano Services
Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2076646 - 05/03/13 01:02 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: RestorerPhil]
Dan Casdorph Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/09
Posts: 353
Loc: Morgantown, West Virginia
Am I the only one that groans when a school calls? I find the pianos junk, the environments here have dried the pianos to potato chip status, and getting quiet times scheduled rarely works. I go and the piano is not available. I can't imagine having 500-600 to take care of.
_________________________
Casdorph Piano Service
Morgantown, WV
www.casdorphpiano.com
All pianos are bald ones.

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#2076692 - 05/03/13 02:30 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Gene Nelson Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 1471
Loc: Old Hangtown California
All you need to do now is learn the language of bureaucrats.
Don't forget - their primary purpose is to grow and you can be part of it if you learn the language.
With 600 pianos, once they learn how important you are you can have high position, assistants, apprentice and student helpers with shop, office, vehicles for all sorts of transport - maybe even home retention - manage and dictate your own budget and all the bells and whistles. You may even offer a course in piano technology. Huge potential.
_________________________
RPT
PTG Member

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#2076723 - 05/03/13 03:25 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Jbyron Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 514
Loc: USA
It sounds like an absolute nightmare, I hope they're paying you well.
_________________________
Tuner-Technician



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#2076903 - 05/03/13 10:53 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3843
I think Jim is doing a good job at identifying the issues as they present themselves. It's crucial he goes into September with the inventory as up to date as possible and work order system working well. it may take most of the school year to identify those pianos that need repairs, and prioritize them. There will be certain teachers, schools, or pianos that may need priority over others. You don't want impatient teachers going outside for piano repair or tuning because they are frustrated by slow response. Given your description of things, I'll bet some teachers are doing just that - bringing in their own techs.

Have you spoken to your predecessor? I wonder if he has any records that might be useful to you? He will certainly be able to warn you of demanding teachers that need special attention - same with pianos that might need extra work.

Please let us know how things are going, Jim.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2077037 - 05/04/13 07:53 AM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: Dan Casdorph]
RonTuner Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1645
Loc: Chicagoland
Originally Posted By: Dan Casdorph
Am I the only one that groans when a school calls? I find the pianos junk, the environments here have dried the pianos to potato chip status, and getting quiet times scheduled rarely works. I go and the piano is not available. I can't imagine having 500-600 to take care of.


Oh, I don't know - sometimes those are the ones that we can make a really big difference to the player with a minimal input of time. I've found some teachers (who don't actually pay the bill)really appreciate having a piano that is in tune! Occasionally they can make budget suggestions that improve the piano more at a later date...
_________________________
Piano/instrument technician
www.ronkoval.com
@ronkoval

my piano videos:
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=drwoodwind


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#2077153 - 05/04/13 01:13 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
RestorerPhil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/12
Posts: 212
Loc: Georgia, USA
There are certainly differing work environments with which we must deal, aren't there?

Prisons & the mental hospital facilities (now primarily in the past in my area)
These demand more time due to security issues with tools and personnel, plus you have the scheduling issues to some extent. Since their systems are often very rigid, at least you don't have many "unknowns." Just charge a double rate or better and do the work.

Schools and nursing home facilities
These often have access, scheduling, and noise issues. In schools, multiple levels of personnel can often confuse it even more. I personally hate to charge extra for many of these situations. In reality, however, these jobs can take extra time that you don't expect, even when you repeatedly check the details. The obvious solution is to price the job high and give a discount, if you choose to do so.

Individual jobs for personal piano users and churches
Even though they must normally be scheduled one at a time and require driving in between, the aggravation level is normally lower. I find the quick trip in between to be a refreshing break.

So far as doing work for a big school system like this, my first issue, after coming to understand more of the situation, is an ethical one: I am not a gravy train sort of worker, so that is out for me, even though I have kidded OperaTenor endlessly about it. By the gravy train I mean the philosophy of "Hey, they are paying me a salary. If they can't get their act together, it's no skin off my nose. That check is all I care about." I am not saying that OperaTenor is jumping into that mentality by taking this job. In fact, I strongly doubt that this is his mindset. Any of us could, however, drift into the gravy train.

Continuing this ethical theme somewhat, for me, the waste of *tax-payer money involved in fighting the day-time schedules of a school system make it a no-brainer: Either I would work with full access to the pianos, primarily working at night and weekends, or I wouldn't take the job. (So, call me strange.) Any buildings with night time security would be oh, so simple. Even with this freedom, band & chorus rooms may offer scheduling challenges. Auditoriums can, too. At least general classrooms would be greatly simplified: With them you can show up any time after classes end, simply verifying ahead with the teacher and asking them to notify the front office.
If the system doesn't trust me to have that access, I would be bowing out. (Once again, just my opinion – probably from years of pent-up institutional aggravation.) Do the background checks; give me the drug tests, but give me access. If the work could be done this way, one tech could tune and do very minimal repairs to all these pianos. Done harem, scarem like they have been, two full-time guys couldn't do it.


On the money side, the salary for a job like this would have to be ...

A REEEEL GOOD 'UN! whistle

Just set, instead, a max budget for the system and then pay me by-the-job with full access to the buildings/pianos. (Yes, I know this is not taking full advantage of "The System.") I wonder, as Bob said, how many teachers have been getting individually-approved work orders handled by tuners other than the primary salaried guy. I bet no one could even tell you how many of these there were, or how much was spent that way. If they could quantify it, a maximum budget would equal the total salary/benefit package he was getting, plus the total of all the other requisitions. In a system that big, you would probably need to track and add a few out-of-pocket, teacher-paid tunings to the total.

Of course, the world Jim has to deal with is what it is. As I said before, he may not be able to change it drastically. Improve it a bit at a time? Well, it's worth a shot for a young, energetic guy, right?

[*U.S. Dept. of Ed. records say that California got a bit under six billion of our federal dollars toward California schools, projected through the year 2013.]

Reference here.



Edited by RestorerPhil (05/04/13 02:58 PM)
Edit Reason: reference added
_________________________
Lavender Piano Services
Established 1977
Tuning, Concert Maintenance,
Rebuilding & Restoration

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#2094980 - 06/03/13 11:37 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Today, I ended the day by working on yet another 1920-something Knabe concert grand. According to the drama teacher I spoke with at this school, there are at least five of this model in the district, which has to mean the district bought them new, in 1920-something. I've worked on three so far.







I'm amazed a public school district has such wonderful instruments. I love love love working on them.


Edited by OperaTenor (06/03/13 11:38 PM)
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2095052 - 06/04/13 03:59 AM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3843
That piano looks like it's done well over the years! So Jim, how are things going in general? Are you getting the administrative systems in place for the coming school year?
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2095142 - 06/04/13 09:39 AM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: Bob]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted By: Bob
That piano looks like it's done well over the years! So Jim, how are things going in general? Are you getting the administrative systems in place for the coming school year?


It has. They have 'garages' for most of the theater pianos, and those have done wonders for keeping the performance pianos from getting too battered.

Yes, I'm working to establish a different way of doing things. I've been inventorying and assessing every time I visit a site for the first time, and as we go, we're formulating a planned maintenance schedule that will get every piano seen on a regular basis. At this point, given my level of productivity, it looks like I'll get to every piano at least once every other year. Pianos that are used for everyday rehearsals and performance will be seen at least semianually, or on an as-needed basis.

At least, that's the plan...
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2095509 - 06/04/13 06:33 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Today's excitement:

Hamilton studio upright: 1

OT: Bupkes

I installed a stage dolly on the above referenced piano this morning. I used the district's little folding vertical piano truck to tip it on it's back to work on it, got the work done, then went to tip it back up. I was well aware of the caution needed for tipping a vertical on a stage dolly, so I was practically hugging both the piano and the truck while tipping it up. At one point, the piano simply slid away across the stage and fell on its back. On the way down, it apparently caught one or both of the tangs on the truck, causing it to whip up vertically, with the force of the weight of the piano, hitting me in the upper left jaw.

About 15 minutes after it happened. The truck is in the background.


The X-ray order written by the doctor. He thought he'd have a little fun with relating the history...



I'm lucky I didn't break my jaw. Or worse.

I'm also lucky the piano didn't skitter off the stage. A four foot drop.
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2095536 - 06/04/13 07:44 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21396
Loc: Oakland
The most dangerous part of using a piano tilter is putting the piano back on its casters. I recommend having someone else to help keep the piano on the tilter until it is upright. Tilting the piano onto blocks of wood high enough that the wheels will not touch the ground is a good idea. You can pull the blocks out afterwards.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2095541 - 06/04/13 07:57 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
I considered using blocks and may do that next time. I've done this hundreds, if not thousands if times before, and this was the first time one ever got away.

Keep in mind, this was a stage dolly, not just casters.
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
[url=www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind]www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind[/url]

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#2095588 - 06/04/13 09:07 PM Re: On the job at the SDUSD [Re: OperaTenor]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 441
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Glad you came out as well as you did, scary stuff.

I always use a ratchet strap, no matter how small the upright.
_________________________
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

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