As soon as A lunch ends, Luther Whitaker starts cleaning the tables, preparing for B lunch. Like the other custodians, despite his busy schedule, he is very friendly and will greet you with a smile.
Our custodial staff works incredibly hard every day to keep our school clean, and subsequently, faculty members and students alike happy. However, except for staff here before or after the school hours, we don’t always see the custodians’ hard work and dedication. We’re here to shine a light on the “others,” whose work makes our school run. Without Alpharetta’s “behind the scenes” staff members, we wouldn’t be the prestigious establishment we are today. The “Dream Team” that is AHS’s custodial staff outshines in the fields of teamwork, dedication, humility, and simple hard work.
Alpharetta High School, a 330,000 square-foot building only has nine individuals working on its custodial staff. Nine regular-day super heroes who clean the entire building along with the massive grounds, which includes the stadiums and fields for various sports and activities. Assistant Principal Rebecca Perkins, who supervises facilities and the custodial staff, attributes the large size of the school as one of the top challenges our staff faces daily.
While each of the custodians work extensive hours, they still have
limited time to clean each classroom and each additional area of the school, due simply to the colossal size of our building. In fact, the custodians are instructed to spend a maximum of seven minutes cleaning each classroom in order to maximize time an be able to clean the entire school.
“We try to get out of [the classrooms] in about 7 minutes, depending on the classroom and what’s going on. We have a list of certain days and certain things we have to do” Jermaine McDowell said, another member of the custodial staff.
While the custodians, being the humble and hard-working people they are, would never complain about their jobs, our student body unknowingly increases the difficulty of their work greatly. If we spill something, need help unlocking a door or locker, or simply want to stop and chat with the staff, they never decline, but we are taking away their already-limited time to go through their tedious check-list. Although we mean well, it’s important to be conscious of their responsibilities.
According to Kerby Guillaume, the sole custodian in charge of the grounds, approximately twenty bags of trash are collected throughout the schools and grounds each day, and that’s without taking into consideration what is collected in the cafeteria and the calamity that are Friday night football games.
“[Kerby] gets here at 3 P.M and is here until 11:30 P.M He also helps clean the gym. The amount of trash that we deal with is absolutely insane,” Ms. Perkins said.
To add to this already extensive list of items that the custodians are expected to complete, the team is also in charge of placing orders for new classroom items to replace old, broken ones. This task is made even more difficult due to the timely processes and procedures for getting some work accomplished.
Ms. Perkins says red tape can be a major issue when she gives Jimmy Marshall, head of the AHS custodial staff, the job of ordering new paint or other items. Although Mr. Marshall has the authority to request more paint for halls and classrooms, this past summer Ms. Perkins had to get involved before Mr. Marshall was able to place the order. This makes Ms. Perkins and Mr. Marshall’s jobs harder; instead of eliminating the middle-man as Perkins intended, both her and Marshall’s duties are put on hold often simply to deal with order complications.
“I had to get involved to get more paint this summer. Our head custodian should be able to order that and get that. And that’s frustrating to him and to me as well,” Perkins said.
The custodial staff at Alpharetta is all about teamwork. With so much on their plates, teamwork is key to allowing these hard working men and women to efficiently do their jobs. Just recently, one member of their staff was out for a family emergency, a very rare occurrence at AHS. Without hesitation, the team banded together and covered her duties.
Mr. McDowell informed me that every day he tries to get ahead of his work and pick up for the rest of the team by using his extra time to complete needed tasks. The most impressive part of this is that he never tells the staff that he was the one picking up additional duties, and expects nothing in return. As he knows if he needs their help, they will do the same for him.
“Some people aren’t as fast as everybody else. I’ll try to do three things, two to three days ahead. Help somebody else out with doing something else. I don’t let them know I’m doing it, I just sit there watching. Somebody notices their trash is done, I probably took care of it,” McDowell said.
The staff’s work ethic and willingness to help each other is something that transcends the janitorial world. We all have something to learn from our school superheroes. As a school, we could be doing the same for them. Whether it’s cleaning up our own spill, throwing our trash actually in the trash bins, or simply moving the chairs in our classrooms at the end of the day to allow for quicker cleaning, we can all help to make their jobs easier. As a student and faculty body, we should join their team, because it’s a team worth playing for.
Photo Credits: Maia Gibson, Photo Editor