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D87 Facilities, Finance Chief Looks Back On 25 Years Of Transforming Schools

Eric Stock
Colin Manahan is retiring as chief finance and chief facilities officer at District 87.

Every school building renovation in District 87 over the last quarter-century has had Colin Manahan's hands on it. That includes a major expansion to Bloomington Junior High, a new fine arts wing at Bloomington-High School, and a new multi-purpose field at BHS.

Manahan has been the district's facilities director since 1997. He has also been in charge of the district's finances for the last three years. Manahan, 62, is giving up both jobs this summer as he retires.

Colin Manahan delivers budget address
Eric Stock
Colin Manahan presented the District 87 budget proposal to the school board in September 2020.

Manahan said the district had a lot of aging and outdated buildings when he started in 1997.

“(Superintendent Barry) Reilly sums it up best, where we have taken public school buildings and turned them into living communities,” Manahan said. “They are very attractive, they are well kept, conducive to a learning environment.”

Manahan said the district has undergone more than 275 building projects totaling north of $80 million during his time with the district.

“It was needed,” Manahan said. “These buildings needed some help when I got here and so I was part of a leadership team that had the opportunity to do that."

Manahan said while some of the renovations were less glamorous, they had to be done such as replacing roofs and boilers and resurfacing parking lots and playgrounds. He said those projects had to be done before the bigger projects could be done.

He said the district’s energy conversation efforts have helped the district save money and become more sustainable. He noted two examples, switching to LED lights and automating its building’s energy use cut costs and earned the district a national award.

“It was never about lessening the learning environment, it was how we could be smarter in how we use our utilities,” he said.

Manahan said there are no major facility needs that have to be addressed in the coming years, but he said the district may explore renovate the Bloomington High School auditorium into a performing arts center.

“That would complement everything else that has gone on at the high school,” Manahan said.

Manahan said after several years of stagnant growth in Bloomington-Normal, he's optimistic about the district's future based on several manufacturers that should build the property tax base, including Rivian Automotive and candy-maker Ferrero along with the expansion at Westminster Village.

“I think Bloomington-Normal is on an uptick because of all the positive things going on with business in this area,” Manahan said. “I think the future looks pretty bright."

Manahan’s future appears bright too as he moves to the so-called Valley of the Sun, otherwise known as Phoenix, Arizona, area to live close to one of his adult children. He said the move has been in the works for three years.

Manahan said the pandemic made this past year the most memorable and most challenging.

“It’s probably the saddest because there was no interaction with staff, with kids,” he said. “A lot of these events we go to brighten the day, brighten the week, whether it’s homecoming or honors night or a cookout, all these things were put on hold.”

District 87 has hired Michael Cornale to take over finances and facilities starting in July. He comes from the Gardner school district in Grundy County.

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