Heralding the unheralded

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

One of the things overlooked by the Suffolk School Board once the race card was so ham-handedly and inappropriately played during recent discussions on whether to study the possibility of outsourcing custodial services was the fact that clean, functional school buildings are the result of people who have dedicated themselves to keeping them that way.

Whether the people who clean the buildings are black or white, employees of the school system or of private enterprise, people are at the core of any good custodial crew. And in the end neither racial heritage nor professional affiliation are what make people do their jobs well. In the end, dedication, pride and professionalism are usually the determining factors between successful employees and unsuccessful ones.

During the outsourcing debate, the custodial staff at Oakland Elementary School was put forward as an example Suffolk’s best, and the school was presented as an illustration of what a clean school should look like.

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Oakland’s custodial workers were among those throughout the school system who were honored on Wednesday during Suffolk Public Schools’ Custodial Workers Appreciation Day, a recognition event the system has held annually for nearly 20 years. In public school buildings around the city, custodians were honored for keeping things looking (and smelling) good, for helping to reduce the incidence of sickness in students and faculty and for their commitment as needed to be at their posts before students and other staff arrive and again after they’re gone at the end of the day.

“The amount of pride that they take in their job shows through,” Oakland Principal Tamesha Dabney said of her school’s custodial staff. “Because students learn best in schools that are safe and comfortable, custodial workers are an important part of the school division’s team,” SPS spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw added.

The points are both valid, and they retain their validity even apart from the outsourcing debate. And the school system does well to remember to honor the folks who make such important — though often unheralded — contributions to the city’s educational efforts.