Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Long-time school district’s maintenance directro set retire

November 26, 2003

During the past 16 years, Art Sorensen's gotten to know just about every nook and cranny of Tonganoxie schools.

But when Sorensen retires at the end of this year as the district's maintenance director, it's not the bricks or the mortar that he will miss.

"I'll miss the little kids," Sorensen said. "If I've got a preference, I'll go to my grade school. I've got a lot of good memories over there. There are a lot of good teachers over there, and I love agitating them."

It's only natural that Sorensen claims at least some ownership of Tonganoxie Elementary School. Ironically enough, he was born 64 years ago in a home that used to sit where the grade school playground is now.

"I was born right there on the playground at the school," Sorensen said, chuckling. "I didn't get very far away."

And while Sorensen is reluctant to leave Tonganoxie schools, he is feeling the pull of responsibility to care for his elderly parents, who live in Kansas City, Kan.

"It's a matter of priorities," Sorensen said. "And I don't feel like I can do a good job here and a good job there. I'm getting old. I hadn't planned to do this for another two years."

Sorensen, who will work here through the end of the year, started work at the school district in June 1988. A year later, he became assistant maintenance director, and in 1995, he was promoted to director. His wife, Carol, will continue to work in accounts payable at the district.

Before joining the school system, Sorensen was a maintenance supervisor for Rico Chemical in the Fairfax area of Kansas City, Kan.

Even though he will spend many hours caring for his parents, Sorensen hopes to have time to work on crafts.

"Maybe I'll try to sell some of that down the line," he said.

He enjoys oil painting. In fact, downtown hardware store owner John Lenahan has Sorensen's first effort in that medium. And Sorensen likes to fashion toys and children's furniture out of wood.

And Sorensen gets high marks from Richard Erickson, superintendent.

"He's just a wonderful person to work with," Erickson said. "I've enjoyed working with Art the past seven and a half years I've been superintendent here. Art's a people person. He gets along so well with people. I consider him a good friend."

In addition, Sorensen is a talented project manager, Erickson said.

"He's also created a strong network with outside contractors who come in, from time to time, to help USD 464 with electrical or plumbing work," Erickson said. "Art's just one of those guys who can stretch education dollars a long, long way. He negotiates well with contractors and vendors."

The deadline to apply for Sorensen's job is Dec. 17, and Erickson is hopeful he can recommend a replacement at the Jan. 12 board meeting.

And Sorensen's advice to school officials as they seek someone to take over the maintenance director's job, in addition to the usual knowledge of electricity and plumbing?

"They have to have somebody with a good temperament and they have to like the kids," Sorensen said. "That's one of the biggest things, they'll have to like the kids."

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