Building a community from the ground up

Facilities Director Mike Bassoni retires, leaving a legacy behind him


Irina Malyugina

Facilities director Mike Bassoni posed on a pathway in the landscaping in front of the Rothschild Performing Arts Center. Bassoni played a key role in the landscaping’s development, providing input on its design.

With his head tilted to one side, eyes unfocused and thoughtful, Mike Bassoni smiles as he answers questions about his lifetime of work at Harker. As he touches on his past and present accomplishments, his voice softens nostalgically from its usual upbeat rhythm, his memories taking him back decades.

Bassoni first began working in the public school system of Mountain View and Los Altos as a physical education teacher, as well as working on construction projects. However, when Proposition 13 was announced, the elimination of several educational children’s programs, including the ones in his schools, propelled Bassoni to pursue another job working at a school.

After seeing an ad for a construction job at Harker, Bassoni immediately applied, and along with receiving the job, he thus started on a new chapter of his life. Bassoni especially recalls the warm welcome and motivating inspiration he received from former mentor and colleague Howard Nichols, the previous headmaster of the Harker school. In addition to physical construction, Bassoni taught primary physical education and helped create sets and lighting for the various shows and performances on campus.

During one of the years at Harker, the position of facilities director became available. Bassoni saw this as a new opportunity and applied, subsequently receiving the role. Since then, he has actively and dedicatedly worked to create a pleasant environment for students and faculty alike, realizing the joy his interactions with different groups of people brought to him.

“I can honestly say that in the 30 years I’ve been here, I’ve never been bored. It’s always an adventure,” Bassoni said. “ I obviously enjoy the students and interacting with the parents and the staff. That makes it fun to come to work.”

While working at Harker as the facilities director for nearly four decades, Bassoni has overseen the development of nearly every construction job at the school.

“Mr. Bassoni is a Harker institution,” said Daniel Molin, the Upper School athletic director who has worked with Bassoni for most of his career at Harker. “Over these 30 plus years, he’s been involved with every construction project. He knows every pipe and wire and wall. He knows every aspect of every building of every Harker facility and has so much wisdom about the school.”

Bassoni has been a present member of the Harker community since the school was still a small facility that offered a boarding program. Each year, the school held an annual science fair that many students asked their parents to help design and develop. Because some students’ parents lived overseas, Bassoni would step in without hesitation to aid these international students in completing their projects. He recalls opening up his own “shop” every weekend, where he would guide and spend time with any student that sought his assistance.

Throughout the years, Bassoni always ensured that these students could also have the same experience as others. While always watching over those students like a parental figure, Bassoni also thoroughly enjoyed teaching them, all the while being able to learn from them about various international cultures and lifestyles.

“Harker has a very international feeling,” Bassoni said. “Most schools in the Bay Area have local students and regional families, but at Harker, families are from all over the world, so I get to stay in touch with what’s happening in other parts of the world.”

As Harker’s student population continuously expanded, administrators came to a decision that the school required more grade separation. After hearing the news, Bassoni personally took on the responsibility, and in 1998, he and his team eventually transformed the small Bucknall campus from a group of isolated buildings into a more welcoming environment for children. Not only did he meet the expectations of the school administrators, but he also accomplished his own goal of designing a more vibrant, fun kindergarten area intact with creative playgrounds, amusing bicycle paths and colorful orchards that completely transformed the original appearance of the campus.

After renovating Bucknall, Bassoni came back to the upper school to direct the construction of the Shah building as well as the gymnasium. Harker then bought the current preschool campus, and once again, Bassoni thoroughly transformed the eight-acre grounds into a safe environment suited for nurturing the development of young minds. Despite the daily challenges he faced, Bassoni continued to maintain his composure in tough situations.

“He has such an easygoing attitude,” Molin said. “When there’s chaos everywhere, he’s always very calm and reasonable. He never gets rattled, [and] he’s very measured.”

Now, Bassoni is ready to take on his most recent challenge: converting the current preschool campus into Harker’s new middle school. Though he is retiring after this year, Bassoni still plans to provide aid and support to the workers fixing the school.

“I feel like I finish one construction project, and I’m already planning for the next one,” Bassoni said.

I can honestly say that in the 30 years I’ve been here, I’ve never been bored. It’s always an adventure.”

— Mike Bassoni

All the diligent work he put in as a facilities director began to take a toll on his relationship with the student body, leaving him with a feeling of disconnection. After serious consideration, Bassoni realized the nurturing relationship he had built with previous students was the reason why he originally fell in love with the Harker community. Due to a passion for track and field throughout high school and college, Bassoni decided to become a coach for the sport 13 years ago. Getting to know students more closely while coaching them helped rekindle the relationship he built with the previous students he mentored.

“Suddenly, I was reconnected with students,” Bassoni said. “They said ‘hi’ to me in the halls. I was no longer a superficial entity they heard about at school.”

Bassoni was always one to excel at whatever he was given. As the new track and field coach, he recalls encouraging students with different body types to freely participate in various events, despite hesitations from the students themselves. His assertive belief against restrictions from any sport due to a certain height or body build gave many students a push in the right direction for a sport he or she may have originally wanted to participate in.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping students succeed at any level,” Bassoni said.

As a track and field coach, specifically for shot put and discus, Bassoni has influenced students in the sport and helped them grow to be the best athlete they can be.

“He cares about how we do and our performance, but he also wants us to have fun and tries to make practices more fun” said Brittany Shou, a freshman on the track and field team. “When he talked about his own experiences with throwing, it really helped me connect with and understand the sport better and made me a better thrower overall, knowing that it wasn’t easy for him either.”

Bassoni hopes to further help the Harker community by maintaining the positive ambience he finds so special. His love for Harker reflects in the diligence he puts into ameliorating each campus, as well as his passion for helping students reach personal success.

“I always felt that having a warm, rich environment at a school and [having] it [feel] clean and safe and [have] features that allow you to learn is as important as what’s in the books,” he said. “If you have a good book, but you don’t have a good teacher or a safe haven, you probably wouldn’t learn as well. I find the environment really important.”