A tribute to the unsung heroes of public education | ParkRecord.com

A tribute to the unsung heroes of public education

Tania Knauer

We all send our students to school each morning and probably don’t even think about the lights being on, a warm building, breakfast being served, or snow-free sidewalks. Behind making sure our students are in a comfortable and safe environment every day are our classified employees. The custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and secretaries are the backbone of our public education system.

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to spend the morning with the Parley’s Park custodians Dave Thomas and John Jenkins. After a quick introduction by Maryann Gilmore, the head of classified employees and the organizer of "Spend a Day with a Classified Employee," we were on our way. Off we went to refill toilet-paper holders, empty trashcans, fill up the paper in copy rooms and clean up after Masterpieces in Art. The morning duties were interrupted by throw-up in the girls’ bathroom and a very-bloody-nose incident.

This was only the first hour or so. After that it was time for lunch. Dave and John converted the multipurpose room from an indoor gym for morning classes into a cafeteria in less than ten minutes. No sooner had the last table been put in place when a third of the student body streamed in with lunch trays in hand. There are three lunches and each one has a recycling program with pails for trash, plastic, milk cartons and unfinished milk. Between every lunch the tables need to be wiped down and hazards removed from the floor with only minutes before the next group arrives. At the end is a major cleanup with the mini-Zamboni floor cleaner. This room is used all afternoon too.

After three hours I said goodbye to my new friends in the custodial staff. They were off to the rest of their day scouring bathrooms, getting rock salt ready for the next storm, recycling a mountain of cardboard and the many other things that need to be done every day. As we’ve added after-school programs and evening events, the tireless custodial staff has had to keep up with our community with more hours and more cleanup.

Thank you for setting up this day, Maryann. Dave and John thank you for letting me tag along for the morning. You have given me an appreciation for the unsung heroes in our school system. And last, to the McPolin custodian who was there after Cinco de Mayo and the Science Fair and all the other events, as well as the day-to-day care of my kids’ school every day, year after year, I want to say, "Thank you, Glade Givens."

Tania Knauer was recently elected to the Park City Board of Education.