LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Chris Suchmann

Position: Chief Buildings and Grounds Officer
School: Rhode Island School for the Deaf
School District: Rhode Island School for the Deaf
City, State: Providence, RI

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Music that Describes Chris

Chris Suchmann was nominated by his colleague, Nancy Maguire Heath.

"'Can-do!' That's what I think of when I consider the contributions of our colleague, Chris Suchmann," said Maguire Heath. "Chris has not worked here very long - two years at best. From day one, 'Hurricane Chris' has made a difference in the cleanliness, health, safety, and beautification of our school."

Mr. Suchmann's determination to make sure his school building is safe and operating smoothly has required him to research original architectural plans from years ago when the school was built. He has made thousands of phone calls to vendors and state officials to get things repaired and/or in better working order. He has negotiated, investigated, and met with police officers and security personnel. Then, COVID-19 arrived!

Rhode Island School for the Deaf was able to bring back the entire school on September 14th, 2020 for in-person learning. They have held the line, with no COVID-19 spread for nine months.

"Many people contributed to this endeavor, and our state was committed to supporting us. I sincerely believe, however, that we would not have been able to secure a safe and proper environment for our students and staff without Chris Suchmann's stubborn determination to get it right," said Maguire Heath. "He worked tirelessly to learn everything about fighting the coronavirus in schools, from measuring air quality, to determining the best products and tools for ensuring our safety, to teaching everyone about proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols. He helped establish a socially distanced physical environment that allowed for daily in-person learning to continue for our very vulnerable inner city deaf and hard of hearing students. I observed him calm the nerves of hesitant staff who feared COVID-19 by using science, facts, and practical examples to ease their concerns.  Our building is full of positive momentum, the curriculum advanced steadily despite the COVID-19 concerns, and most importantly, learning loss was greatly minimized.  This starts with a very safe building and consistently applying best practices. It also involved changing course as soon as the science changed and the country learned more about this crazy pandemic. It required extra time and great flexibility."

"This herculean effort has not only improved our ability to serve children, but it has improved the building to its maximum health and safety status," said Maguire Heath. "Together with our school nurse, a previous LifeChanger nominee, and his maintenance team of three, Chris has made an enormous contribution that helped make an entire year of face-to-face learning possible for Rhode Island School for the Deaf.  This is no small feat!"