One of the key behind-the-scenes people keeping Riverside Brookfield High School running smoothly and looking spic and span for the last nine years has moved on.
Facilities Manager Joel Hatje, an employee of Aramark, the company that handles custodial operations and basic maintenance work at RBHS, has been transferred to a new position as facilities manager for the sprawling Indian Prairie School District 204, which has 31 schools in Naperville and Aurora.
Hatje came to RBHS in 2012 at a time when the high school was bedeviled by problems with the swimming pool’s ventilation system, water seeping into the new fieldhouse and problems with boilers.
He took on each challenge, including the work related to the construction of the Martin Kennelly Athletic Complex, and won the respect and admiration of RBHS staff with his hard-working, diligent and low-key demeanor. He dealt with problems and solved them.
Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said Hatje treated RBHS as he would his own home.
“We have been through a lot together — floods, construction projects, blizzards, polar vortex, roof leaks, pool dehumidification problems, you name it,” Skinkis said. “No matter what we were dealing with, you could always count on Joel being at work, he was always thinking about how to fix a problem and he took pride in his job.”
Skinkis said Hatje saved RBHS approximately $300,000 by doing some of the stadium work and other work internally or by using local contractors. Hatje often helped land grant money, spearheaded the replacement of about half the light bulbs in the school with brighter, more energy-efficient LED lighting.
School board President Wes Smithing, who worked with Hatje as a member of Skinkis’ facility advisory council also is sorry to see Hatje move on.
“He will definitely be missed,” Smithing said.
Hatje said that he enjoyed working at RBHS.
“It was, for me, a fantastic experience,” Hatje said. “I got to work with some terrific people.”
He said working on the $17 million football stadium project was a highlight and a learning experience.
“That project for me was a new experience and a really rewarding one,” Hatje said. “It involved so many people from the community — board members, staff, athletic folks, architects, engineers. It was such as collaborative effort.”
Hatje downplayed the role he had in addressing issues that were causing problems when he came to RBHS.
“With any renovation that size, and especially renovating a building that parts of it are over 100 years old, there’s no way to avoid some issues,” Hatje said. “So when I came in I was a set of fresh eyes, and as those issues were brought to me we just kind of figured out ways to solve them.”
Hatje was also proud of his work installing LED lights throughout the school.
“We’ve been able to reduce the energy consumption with that and it also provides better a better lighting source and a more reliable lighting source,” Hatje said.
Hatje will be replaced by Burim Grajcevci, who has been working for Aramark at RBHS for the past five years, starting in maintenance and then being promoted two years ago to custodial manager.
“He’s a fantastic mechanic and maintenance technician,” Hatje said, noting that Grajcevci quickly adjusted to a new managerial role when he was promoted to custodial manager.
Hatje said it was easier to leave RBHS knowing that Grajcevci is succeeding him.
“The process was easier because we had a terrific guy to take over the operation,” Hatje said.
But Hatje said he will miss the people at RBHS – the administrators, teachers, other staff, school board members, and community members who he has gotten to know over the past nine years.
“RB is a special place,” Hatje said.