We have a number of Randolph employees whose roles are unique to our school and whose work makes a difference to the quality of the student experience. Spence Johnson, in charge of Special Projects for the Facilities and Grounds team, is one of Randolph's Difference-Makers.
What do you do?
Special projects within the facilities team is all-encompassing job. I solve whatever challenge walks in the door next—that could be designing a trifolding tool cabinet for Karen Van Bebber's 7th and 8th grade science room, doing scenic lighting for an event, or developing a system to install banners. I built the Randolph Pop-up Park that we use at Under the Christmas Tree. I even advise on Science Olympiad projects. A few years ago, a student needed help using power tools to work on a project about heat-retention. Whatever it is, I try to help with the construction of hands-on projects—rubber band powered wagons, logistics with stagecraft—to tech support with ethernet and installation of security cameras, to putting netting in batting cages, to event set-up.
People bring their ideas, and I'll figure out how to make it a reality and make sure it's childproof. I take what somebody is dreaming, which sounds easy to them but is anything but. I'm a low-rent version of the Disney Imagineer.
What’s different about your work here?
I came to Randolph as a parent in 1992, when our daughter, Sarah, was a student, but I didn't start working here until 2009. Before that, I was a regional manager in machinery sales providing CNC machine tools to major defense and aerospace companies in the Southeast. Before that, I had worked at a machine tool distributor that made rockets. I was looking for something new. It started with an offhand remark I made to Mark Salster when I was helping him move some of the Theatre Randolph stuff over to the new campus on Garth Road back when my son, Chris, was a freshman. All I said was that it looked like he could use some help. I thought this would just be for a few months, and it's been almost 10 years. I never have two days the same. We get some pretty off-the-wall requests.
At school, I’m never without …
Power tools, wishes to fulfill, and challenges to overcome.
Where can you be found most days?
Wherever the last job is. I am on both campuses three or four times a day, and I walk about 3-4 miles a day.
What’s your philosophy about your work?
I never want to say no. I try to be positive. We can work through budget, complexity, and safety.
Describe a great day at work.
Making someone’s vision into reality. I found the material, assembled it, and everyone’s happy.
It's a bonus if I can repurpose things, like the portable sound cart I put together with refurbished equipment on a custom-built cart. One of our science teachers sewed a drape for it. Or the day we got this panel saw—I bought it used in Birmingham. We use this to make the gingerbread houses for Under the Christmas Tree. It saves hours of work.
Favorite school tradition?
Convocation, and as the parent of a lifer, I have been on both sides of it. At Opening Convocation, the Kindergartners are so excited because they’ve just met their Senior Buddies. The Closing one is tougher. It’s bittersweet. It reminds you of the relationships and the memories you have of your own children.
Best time of the school year and why?
Graduation. Our team is so involved in every aspect of this event, from the basics—chairs and tables--to the livestream. It’s a circus, but when it all comes together, there's a good vibe, as long as we can get through it without rain!