By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Alan Haskell has been a familiar face throughout USD No. 480 for many years as Director of Auxiliary Services. However, on July 1, he will officially step down to embark on a new journey – much better known as retirement. Haskell’s years of experience and expertise leave rather big shoes to fill, but Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Paul Larkin is confident they have hired an individual who is nothing short of a perfect fit for the position – Robert Burkey.
Burkey, along his family, came to Liberal several years ago as the owner of Ayr Lanes. It didn’t take him long to discover he loved his new community, so he jumped in with both feet and worked hard to promote the City of Liberal. As a volunteer on several boards and committees, Burkey is probably best known as the 2010 President of Liberal’s Chamber of Commerce.
Burkey’s work throughout the city didn’t go unnoticed. As in all smaller towns, people are watching – and they liked what they saw. So, when it came time to hire a replacement for Haskell, the school district didn’t have to look very far.
“He does know a lot about what is going on,” Larkin said recently. “He has served as a Site Council member at McDermott. I know he has had a lot of volunteer involvement with that building, as well as with Garfield Elementary. I think his church sponsored that school as well, so I know he has spent some time over there.
“With his background, with the bowling center, he has had to have his hand in a lot of similar kinds of activities that he will be dealing with – from food service to maintenance of equipment and those sorts of issues,” he explained. “Although they are different types of things, they are very similar. We are real excited to have Robert on board.”
Burkey’s experience rather than his educational background made him perfect for the position, Larkin said.
“He has been in the community for several years,” he said. “He brings a passion about education with him. Although he doesn’t have the typical educational background that several of us have had – working through the building and other ranks – similar to Jerry Clay, he brings along a different perspective at times, which is nice for us to see, too.”
Larkin said there were several very capable applicants for the position, however, after it was all said and done, Burkey was at the top of the list.
“We actually narrowed the applicants down to a field of eight that we interviewed,” he said. “We had several very qualified candidates. It was really, really a tough decision, but Robert stood out as the head of that class. It was a tough decision, but it was one of those good problems to have when you get down to the number of quality applicants that we had.”
Burkey’s position will require him to oversee classified personnel, he said, as well as oversee all maintenance operations.
“He will be the director over transportation, maintenance grounds, food service, safety in the district,” he said. “That is mainly the supervisor over a lot of our classified staff. We differentiate between our certified staff, which is mainly teachers and administrators, and classified staff which is the cooks, custodians, those types of folks. So, most of his work will be over classified staff.”
Although Larkin has only worked along Haskell for the current school year, he is certain he has been nothing short of an asset to the district.
“My experience is very limited with Alan, but from what I can see, we have a lot of older buildings but they have been very well maintained over the years,” he said. “I am sure Alan will be missed, because it is very apparent to me that he has done a very good job. Things are in line, our equipment runs well, the buses and transportation and those things are well maintained. The yards and buildings are maintained well, so he has done a heck of a job. He has been with the district a lot of years and will definitely be missed.”
Burkey, himself, feels confident the district made a good decision by choosing him as well, but he is extremely humble – he said he is very aware of all he has to learn with his new position. Thankfully, he said, Haskell has agreed to stay on for two months in a training capacity.
“I thought I would be perfect for it,” he said. “It is basically the one position that I think I am suited very well for. It is business position, and it goes very well with everything I already do. Everything that the job consists of I have been doing for the last 17, 20 to 25 years. Sure, I have specialized in bowling, but what you don’t understand is I do food service, I do maintenance. If we don’t do maintenance and upkeep on our grounds and building, it doesn’t work.
“I am going to have the fortune of having Mr. Haskell by my side for two months,” he continued. “I know how to deal with certain stuff, but I have to know how to deal with that stuff. July 1 is when my contract starts, and he has graciously agreed to stick around and help me out, especially when school starts – that is a really important time. I will take full advantage, I will be on his ankle the whole time. I am really looking forward to those two months, I really am.”
Burkey will put some other projects and positions to rest in order to give his new job all of his attention and energy.
“I won’t be able to coach (bowling) and I won’t be working at the bowling center,” he said. “I took a new job and I will give it everything I got.”
He added he will be more than happy to add any input when Liberal High School’s Athletic Director Scott Hinkle begins to search for a new bowling coach.
“I have to find someone to replace myself,” he said with a laugh.
As far as the Chamber of Commerce is concerned, he will continue to serve as a board member, however, he has stepped down from several other volunteered positions.
“I want to give my new job all of the attention that it deserves and requires right away,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Burkey is simply excited to begin his work as Director of Auxiliary services. He says his first day is three months away, and he almost feels like a child waiting for Christmas.
“This job was right in line with what I wanted, and I wanted to be a part of the school system,” he said. “I wanted to be, basically, able to do something.
“I am extremely excited, I have three months, that will be the longest three months,” he said, with a chuckle. “I am ready to learn and ready to do what I can.”