Every school in Westport is filled with Unsung Heroes: its custodians. Dozens of men and women work day and night. They clean floors, empty trash, move equipment and do countless other tasks so that our kids can learn — and our teachers can teach — in the cleanest, nicest and best environments possible.
I could single out many Westport custodians as this week’s Unsung Hero. I’m focusing on Jose Alvarez — but he stands for all of them.
Jose begins work at Staples High School at 5 p.m. His domain is the first floor — including the main office wing. It’s the most visible part of the school, and the pride he takes in making it shine is palpable.
He stayed late one night, because there were scuff marks he was still working to remove. That’s a regular occurrence: He won’t leave until his area is perfect.
He washes coffee mugs on administrators’ desks. They don’t want him to, but he insists.
Jose is Colombian. He learned English by listening to lessons on headphones, as he worked.
One of his proudest moments was the day he became an American citizen. He’d studied hard for the test. Principal John Dodig arranged for a cake, and a small ceremony. Jose beamed with pride.
“He’s grateful for everything,” says current principal James D’Amico. “And we’re grateful for him. People come in, and can’t believe how clean and shiny the building looks.”
Staples head custodian Horace Lewis — an Unsung Hero himself — says Jose “never takes a day off. He’s always here, and always does his job so well.”
When he does have a vacation, Jose travels. He’s been to Israel and Italy. Of course, he returns to Colombia whenever he can.
But then it’s back to Westport. There is a school to take care of, and Jose is proud to do it.
(Hat tip: Karen Romano)