Troubleshooting best part of job for SchitterMay 2, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — When Bobby Schitter of Jasper was young, he didn’t like fixing broken things.
Now, the 54-year-old Jasper Middle School maintenance director has made a 24-year career out of doing just that, even winning an award for his skills.
Last week, Schitter traveled to Indianapolis to accept the 2019 Maintenance Person of the Year award from the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association. Although Schitter knew the Greater Jasper Schools administration nominated him for the award, he was still surprised to win.
“It was a humbling feeling, and I was at a loss for words,” he said. “It meant a lot to me that somebody would nominate me and thought enough of what I do.”
Schitter grew up in Jasper and earned a degree in auto/diesel from Oakland City University. After graduating college, he worked at the Dubois County Highway Department for a few years before taking a job in the maintenance department at Jasper High School. When Jasper Middle School opened in 2004, he moved to that building and has been there since.
From his office off the mechanical room at the middle school, he can monitor the whole building’s machinery from his computer, turning the air handler up or down and dimming the lights as necessary to conserve energy.
But he’s rarely in his office. He and fellow maintenance man Chris Flamion spend their days around the school grounds doing myriad jobs: fixing air conditioning or heating units, repairing school buses or lawnmowers, or spraying weeds. Whatever needs to be done, they do it, and no day is ever the same.
“My schedule changes by the minute sometimes,” Schitter said. “I really enjoy it.”
Schitter’s favorite part of the job is troubleshooting when something goes wrong. It can be a challenge, he said, because a single system might have 25 or more parts that can malfunction and bring it to a halt. Solving the issue, Schitter said, brings him a sense of accomplishment.
Thanks to his years at the school and around the equipment, Schitter can generally figure out what’s causing an issue, regardless of what mechanical system he’s working on. Over the years, he’s made a point to gain knowledge about every system in the school, often attending additional trainings on electrical and air handling systems, and constantly shadowing contractors the school hires when Schitter encounters a problem he can’t solve.
“I like to pick their brains,” Schitter said of the contractors.
The biggest challenge in his work, Schitter said, is managing a constantly changing schedule and prioritizing what to work on first. Sometimes, a handful of people will have a mechanical issue at the same time — classrooms being too hot or cold, for example. Then, Schitter has to prioritize what will be worked on first. His fellow staff members are understanding of those situations, Schitter said, and trust him to do what’s best. That trust and his relationships with his co-workers are another reason he loves his job.
“It makes it nice when you have people you enjoy being around and that respect you, too,” he said. “It makes me smile coming to work.”
Schitter lives in Ireland with his wife, Jeanne. They have a daughter, Valerie Wood, and three grandchildren.
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