Bloomfield native takes on supervisor role in Glen Ridge schools

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Robert Gomes is the new Glen Ridge School District buildings and grounds supervisor.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge School District has a new buildings and grounds supervisor. Robert Gomes was hired to this position Sept. 1 and comes to the borough with considerable experience.

Gomes, 52, has his roots in the area, having grown up in Bloomfield, on Harrison Street off Newark Avenue. His paternal grandfather came to this country from Portugal and, with Gomes’ father, owned Supreme Bakery on Harrison Street. His paternal grandmother and an uncle also worked in the bakery. 

Gomes attended Fairview Elementary School, South Junior High School and Bloomfield Tech, all in Bloomfield.

When he was 28, he moved to Hardyston in Sussex County. He currently resides in Vernon.

“It’s real nice, real rural,” he said recently by telephone. “But I actually miss Bloomfield.”

He said he still considers moving back to Bloomfield. Gomes is married with three grown children, including twins.

At Bloomfield Tech, he learned several trades, including welding, carpentry and electricity.

“It was a good school,” he said. “I learned a lot.”

After graduating, he went to work framing out houses with his brother and the builder K Hovnanian Homes. He did this for about seven years and then moved on to an electrician in South Orange. He got an electrician’s license at that time and still has it today.

“I’ve been in construction my whole life and a lot of painting as well,” he said

He stayed with the South Orange electrician for about five years but, in the meantime, got married and decided to find work with benefits for his growing family.

“That’s when I got into schools,” he said. “I just like being around kids. You’re doing stuff to make the place clean, make it better, in a sense. I started in Bloomfield.” 

His first Bloomfield job was senior electrician for the school district. 

“That’s what started my career in schools,” he said. “I was 29 years old. It was about 1999. I’m entering my 23rd year in school districts. I like the job. I’m going to stick around and not go anywhere.”

Gomes was employed by the Bloomfield School District for three years, then departed.

“I was in different districts and worked my way up the ladder,” he said.

In the Maywood School District, he was an assistant supervisor. In the Morris Plains School District, he was the custodial supervisor and worked in buildings and grounds. He went to Wantage in Sussex County and was that district’s supervisor of buildings and grounds. Gomes said one reason he was attracted to the Glen Ridge district was its proximity to his old hometown.

Two projects now in the works for Glen Ridge, he said, are roof repairs at Ridgewood Avenue School and a new HVAC system at the high school. That is in the planning stages now with the contractors. The work will be done next summer. 

“The schools are beautiful buildings,” he said. “They have good bones.”

Gomes does not see any immediate need for new equipment. He has a crew of 17 men.

“They’re a good group of guys,” he said. “Quite a few have been here for a while.”

The atmosphere in the district, he said, is “awesome.”

“I’ve met some parents,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms.”

Considering his work routine, he said every day is different.

“I get my paperwork done in the morning,” he said. “I have one maintenance person working with me. And I’m kind of hands-on. I do office work and I’m out in the field as well. It benefits the district with the construction and electrical knowledge I have.”

Gomes said he visits each school daily “to see if there are any deficiencies,” in order to be proactive and not reactive.

With winter coming, Gomes said the district is ready.

“We’re getting the winter equipment together and purchasing salt,” he said. “I’ve been plowing snow for 22 years. It’s become second nature. But there hasn’t been a bad winter in some time.”

Thinking ahead, Gomes said he would like to move back to Bloomfield but wonders about the taxes. His father was paying $12,000 years ago. Gomes wonders what they are now. According to various sources, the average property tax in Bloomfield is actually roughly the same now.

For recreation, he likes to play golf but has not done that for a while because of his long work hours.

“Someday, I’ll get back to it,” he said.

Gomes said he would encourage anyone with an interest in learning a trade to do so.

“My son didn’t want to go to college,” he said. “He’s working for an electrician and doing really well. College isn’t for everyone. But the trades are a good business. They are not going anywhere.”