Sustaining Growth, Fostering Safety, Doing Good for the People
Kelle' Lynch McMahon,
Director of Facilities
Fremont Unified School District
With $650M in bond construction programs, Kelle' Lynch McMahon and her team of 15 facility staff and consultants are helping manage the growth of the Fremont Unified School District in Fremont, California. Fremont Unified School District serves 32,000 students in grades K-12.
Planning, development and execution of construction for facilities are part of the long-term planning activities and key responsibilities for the position. These responsibilities include the development of partnerships with the City of Fremont and various non-profit organizations that provide support services to schools.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has been a challenge Ms. Lynch McMahon has tackled with professionalism, grace and high standards.
“I am a woman of color and have always been judged by a different measuring stick, so you have to be excellent in all the facets of work that you do,” said Ms. Lynch McMahon. “I have always strived to be the best in whatever I do, so that the package that I come in is not viewed over the talent and skill brought to the table for consideration.”
“Women are resilient and very capable of doing many things well including design and construction,” said Ms. Lynch McMahon. While buildings are her focus, the work is really people focused.
“I enjoy meeting people and seeing the changes that occur for construction projects. For me, it’s all about helping the community and allowing students and their families to see benefits from the hard work and vision that comes together to help promote a quality education,” said Ms. Lynch McMahon.
The district encompasses a little over 5.1 million in SF of facilities that includes 41 schools, a district office and a maintenance corporation yard.
Ms. Lynch McMahon and her team helped assist FUSD Administrators in setting up more than 10 school learning hub sites up and running safely throughout the pandemic. The Maintenance and Operations Department worked diligently to ensure better ventilation and air circulation were achieved, setting up water filling stations and enhanced cleaning and spraying. These learning hubs also provided meal service for students and their families.
She’s feeling confident that things will go smoothly in September when kids go back to in-person instruction full-time at all the school sites, but in the summer, buildings still require regular maintenance and repairs including air filter changes, painting, floor waxing, updating and refreshing. The teams will be busy working to complete the work needed for a full return.
Ms. Lynch McMahon and her team are following city, county, state and federal school health and safety standards, including Cal-OSHA, the Alameda County Dept. of Health, California Department of Education (CDE) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols and recommendations to ensure buildings meet health and safety standards for students’ in-person return.
“Our teams are going full-time,” she said. “Summer is busy because we’re able to access different sites we normally can’t reach during the school year.”
Ms. Lynch McMahon attended the University of the District of Columbia for a Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree in Construction Engineering and Cal Berkeley for a Master of Science (MS) in Civil Engineering.
Kelle' has also taken several professional development courses through CMAA and the Association of General Contractors. As a lifetime learner, you can never get enough training and certifications for your specialty. It’s important to keep current with standards, policies and best practices in the industry. Kelle' is also a licensed yoga instructor and is working on a specialty certification for integrative health and nutrition.
For women interested in exploring the field of facility management, Ms. Lynch McMahon offered these words of advice:
“Learn the ins and outs of the entire process! Educate yourself on design, planning, maintenance and operations. They are all inter-related and support one another and are critical to the success of a well-run facility. Whenever you can, get hands on training and relevant experience if and wherever possible. Best to know and learn hands on rather than always relying on textbooks and theories.”
What skills make women strong candidates for this field?
“Leadership skills, good listening and planning skills are critical, including the ability to process and sequence activities (multi-tasking) during the construction process while identifying and addressing deferred maintenance issues,” she said.
In closing, she stated that it is important to have representation, and that the opportunities are there if people seek them out.
"One thing that everyone should always have is a mentor in the field you are pursuing. They will be your guide and provide access and sometimes insight in situations that you may encounter. That guidance can be the difference in decisions that you make that will affect your entire career,” she said.
“Always be confident that success is on the other side of whatever challenge you encounter. It always comes down to the Attitude that you have and not the Aptitude. Your attitude will always convince others to do something positive, whereas your aptitude does not always impact others in a positive way. And always be your authentic self. No masks required!”