Cosumnes River College on Improving Facilities with the HGSC Self-Assessment

Christopher K. Raines
Director of Administrative Services
Cosumnes River College

Tell us about your college.

Cosumnes River College occupies and maintains one million square feet of space. We’ve started taking baby steps toward a more sustainable program. When I started here four years ago, I slowly started putting things in place, but really hadn’t gotten it rolling all that well. Then, the pandemic occurred and has disrupted things for the last couple of years. However, the procedures we put in place prior to COVID did position us rather well; we didn’t have to suffer as many supply chain interruptions as others did because we use on-site generation for our cleaning products. 

What was your path to a career in school facilities management?

I am currently the director of administrative services at Cosumnes River College, part of the Los Rios Community College District in the greater Sacramento area. I have 23 years of experience in facilities, working my way up from a custodian up to the director of administrative services. 

What motivated you to join the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program and what was the approval process like?

It’s been a pleasure serving on the steering committee of Healthy Green Schools & Colleges and getting this program up and running, so joining the program was an easy choice. The approval process was fairly simple; I informed my boss of what I wanted to do and gave her an overview of what we had been working on. She greenlighted it within about two sentences. 

What Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program benefit do you and your team value most?

Finding like-minded people who share the passion for getting things done. I enjoy meeting people that are slightly smarter than me, taking some of their good ideas, and implementing them back on our campus. We can learn from people across the country from Wisconsin to Washington to Georgia and it helps build trust in what our team is doing; it shows us that we’re on the right path toward creating a better learning environment for our staff and students, keeping our employees safe, and accomplishing our overarching facilities mission. 

Tell us about your experience taking the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges self-assessment. 

I really looked forward to seeing my score. My score was 37, but I intentionally didn’t try to get all the points the first time — I just wanted to see what I would get. 
I clicked on a link, and when I reached the first question that I didn’t know the answer to, I realized it was going to take me longer than I’d thought. But I decided to answer all the questions as best I could, acknowledge when I didn’t know the answers, and see where I sat. I knew going into the self-assessment that I would end up with a roadmap and be able to set expectations for everyone else, let them see the documentation, and see what we needed to work on. 
My thinking at the time was that yes, we want to ride in at 85 points, put our hands in the air, and be the gold standard. But we got 37 points, so we have a lot of low-hanging fruit that my team is working on now and it’s not an overwhelming or arduous task to improve our facilities because we know what we need to do. It’s things like taking a Word document in English and converting it into Mandarin using a translate button; in three clicks, I’ve done something that the boss wanted me to get done, earned more points toward the HGSC standard, and made it so the job is not so difficult to get done that no one wants to do it. 
Once we got the score, we parsed it apart and we’re slowly nibbling away at it. It’s working rather well so far. 

Were you surprised by your score on the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges self-assessment? If so, what was unexpected? 

I would say yes; I’ll be honest, I’m surprised I got as high as I got. I was surprised about how much I knew about certain aspects of other departments. I also thought it was interesting that I didn’t know the answers to more questions in the custodial cleaning section than in the HVAC or procurement sections. I expected to have a firmer understanding of the cleaning aspects, but it’s better that our scores were lower in those areas because we can more easily and directly address these areas of opportunity. 

Are colleagues or administrators outside of your department aware of your school’s participation in the program?

Yes, I’m currently in the process of informing the broader college community about our participation and the results of our self-assessment. I’ve shared the information with the health and safety committee, resource committee, participatory governance committee, and the academic senate. The greater college community and various stakeholders are involved, so they know what we’re doing and there’s no mystery about how the buildings are being maintained. 

What’s next for Cosumnes River College?

I have two initial goals: If I can achieve Healthy Green Schools & Colleges’ silver-level certification at the start, I’ll be happy, but the overarching goal is really just to be Kim Thomas. Based on my visit to the University of Georgia, Kim is already the gold standard. So, if you’re able to compete with her and her program there at the university, you’re in the right circle. 

What advice would you give to a K-12 district or college or university that is looking for resources and considering learning more about the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges program?

I’ve used a lot of resources over the last four or five years and I’ve used name recognition for facilities, school districts, and individuals to validate what I’m asking for; I’ll tell my boss that there are these other universities and colleges that are equal to our size doing XYZ and that we should be doing those things also. So, my advice would be to get in touch with those individuals and to network. In many cases, they’ve already had the difficult discussions, can articulate what to use to help sell the changes you want to put in place, and can help you hit the ground running.  
I always tell everyone I’m a control freak, I don’t like people changing my things, so I change things myself. That way, I’m in control of how we’re changing, the pace at which we’re changing, and what is being changed. You must show that you’re growing and trying to improve your program because if you’re viewed as the person or department that never changes, people find a way to work around you; you sideline yourself on leadership roles that I think facilities people need to have, especially considering the last couple of years. Don’t be afraid to lead.