Carson City School District’s Operation Services Manager Mark Korinek says his big accomplishment is when Carson City became “Solar City” in 2011.
While he emphasizes he didn’t accomplish it alone, having 9,604 photovoltaic solar panels housed among five schools spread across 195,000 square feet of solar arrays was memorable.
Korinek said Carson High School became the largest campus at the time to offer more solar energy per student in the state.
Korinek is retiring as director of operations and facilities after a notable career of about 25 years in construction and maintenance of Carson City’s school buildings that focused on keeping its sites safe, warm and clean for students and staff in all conditions.
“I had a lot of help doing it,” Korinek said. “I led the charge, and then after that, it rolled.”
The job hardly has seen its dull days working with vendors to keep design or construction on track, priorities in line and facilities in the best shape possible to keep education happening before, during and after a pandemic — and he’s especially enjoyed working with students to keep them interested in sustainability.
Carson City School District Operations Director Mark Korinek has retired.
“That’s what I really love now is going to a school and giving kids tours or spend two days doing a solar tour at Eagle Valley (Middle School) for several classes,” Korinek said. “Kids remember it. They’ll go, ‘Oh, I went last year,’ and little kids, especially at Empire (Elementary School), the Green Biz kids, those are my favorite. They’re just excited about everything. They have fabulous teachers.”
He also speaks highly of CCSD’s partnership with consultant McKinstry, a firm that provides energy management, engineering and design solutions, to help modernize its buildings and saved it more than $350,000 a year in utilities and operational costs. CCSD hired McKinstry in May 2016 to complete an audit of all its facilities, and the $6.1 million project included an LED retrofit and water conservation projects, new heat pumps for Fremont and Mark Twain elementary schools, a gym roof and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system at Carson Middle School and trash compaction at three school sites.
“We were able to fund some capital items we couldn’t afford to any other way,” he said.
To oversee a district’s operations services department, the place where his staff is ensuring customer satisfaction through capital improvements, supply access, facilities management, groundskeeping, custodial services, energy management and other services, requires having multiple hands helping at once to help with cleaning school grounds, assessing what buildings need and working with contractors. Korinek said he’s gone from having 14 vacancies at one point down to six with three in operations alone. Some retired and the department had to hire 17- or 18-year-old students to help replace an aging custodial workforce, some who left during the pandemic as cleaning processes changed. Korinek said any shifts from one position to another causes ripple effects in the department.
Korinek, who was raised in Buffalo, NY, left the East Coast at 21, married his wife and moved to California. He started in landscaping and worked a few brief stints with a biotechnology company building greenhouses and in supply management. But it was a change in packaging that helped him move to Nevada to open a division.
Korinek said the experience taught him about the importance of customer service but after a few years, he needed something different. He eventually saw the opening in operations with the Carson City School District, applied and was hired to help clean up the department’s office.
Today, the department consistently ensures facilities are functioning at all levels to keep schools open and safe, and that’s a source of pride for Korinek.
“It’s been important to me to provide a more high-end environment educational area for students to learn,” he said. “And that’s why we’ve had (carbon dioxide) sensors in our systems.”
Of note under Korinek’s leadership in construction management recently was Eagle Valley Middle School’s three-year expansion project to give the school a greater capacity for its growing enrollment. The project was finalized and celebrated in July 2022 and added on 12 classrooms, two STEM labs, extra workroom space and is solar efficient.
Asked what might be considered among the schools’ priorities for facilities or maintenance now, Korinek responds there is no one school or project that takes precedence, although staff is considering several roofing projects this summer.
“Carson High School’s HVAC system needs replacing – it’s early ‘70s,” he said. “District wide, our building control system is 25 years old, and some of the areas need new controllers and don’t match up with what we had before.”
But as he looks back, taking care of Carson City’s people within the district ultimately was the job and his mission, he said.
“I think it’s been my honor to serve this school district – amazing people that have worked here,” he said. “And my team knew basically their job is to take care of everybody else. It’s customer service, to make sure they can do their job the best they can … because ultimately we’re all here for the kids.
“We followed the hashtag #gladtobehere, and then we added, ‘Glad to be of service, but life’s good,’” he said. “I think every time somebody came into work, they had that thought. We’ve got superhero lunch ladies in this department. We’re providing a good environment. We’re providing that service to take care of the kids.”