SPS thanks custodiansPublished 11:20pm Wednesday, January 8, 2014
During the Suffolk School Board’s recent debate over whether to call for bids to outsource custodial services, Oakland Elementary School head custodian Donald D. Gilchrist attended at least one meeting at City Hall.
“It was joy,” he said of the eventual decision to kill the proposal board member Linda Bouchard introduced as a possible way to save money and give teachers raises.
“That not only goes for me,” but for the school district’s other custodial workers, Gilchrist added, some of whom had joined him in the public gallery to support the proposal’s opponents.
Wednesday was the district’s annual Custodial Workers Appreciation Day, and “Mr. G” — as the Oakland Elementary community affectionately knows Gilchrist, while his wife Angel Gilchrist is “Mrs. G” — said he and other cleaning staff appreciated the recognition.
“I approach this job the same way I do at home,” said Gilchrist, who’s been at Oakland the same length of time as his wife, about 14 years. “I expect my home to be clean, and I expect this school to be clean, as well.”
But the job isn’t just about cleaning bathrooms and polishing floors, Gilchrist says: It’s also looking out for the welfare of the students.
“I look out for the kids,” he said. “I want them to be happy and free from germs. We really strive for that — to keep our kids away from any type of germs.”
During the outsource debate, which started in September and was laid to rest three months later, allegations of sub-standard cleanliness were leveled against certain schools. However, Oakland Elementary was held up as a shining example of what a clean school looks like.
Working with the two Gilchrists at Oakland are Pat Artis and Valerie Powell, and on Wednesday, all were presented with small gift bags, handshakes and hugs by the office ladies.
Principal Temesha Dabney said her school’s custodians go “beyond daily duties.”
“They have a relationship with our students and parents and all our staff members, and I think that’s what sets our custodians apart from many others,” she said.
“The amount of pride that they take in their job shows through. Mr. G has very high expectations … which is evident as you walk through the building.”
Artis said everybody treats everybody else like family at Oakland Elementary. “I’m loving it,” she said of the recognition. “It’s a surprise.”
Powell said the kids would always lift her spirits if she feels a little down. “They always make my day,” she said.
School spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw says the district employs 91 custodial workers, and has held the appreciation day for almost 20 years.
“Not part of a national event, this local celebration was created to ensure that an important segment of the school division’s workforce was given a day of well-deserved recognition for their hard work and dedication throughout the year,” she stated in an email.
“Because students learn best in schools that are safe and comfortable, custodial workers are an important part of the school division’s team.”