One of the major consequences of COVID-19 is the enormous task of making our schools safe for reopening. For months the custodial and maintenance staffs at our 8 public schools have worked assiduously, doing just that.
One of the less noticed effects of the virus is that with schools closed, we don’t get a chance to see all the hard work that’s being done. Or to thank one of the key members of the staff when he leaves.
Next week, Staples High School’s head custodian Horace Lewis retires.
He would not want any fanfare. Horace is a stay-out-of-the-limelight guy. But he’s not getting away without a public acknowledgment of all he has done, and how much he has meant to the building he’s served (and loved) for so many years.
It’s a huge place. There are so many parts to it: classrooms, hallways, auditorium, a gym and fieldhouse and athletic fields, a cafeteria and 2 teaching kitchens, a library, TV studio, storage areas, boilers and HVAC systems, and who knows what else.
Well, Horace knows.
He’s spent well over a decade taking care of it all. He knows every inch of the school — probably better than anyone else, I’m sure.
He makes sure 3 shifts of staff keep all those many inches running (and gleaming). They work during the school day, during all those afternoon and evening events, and through the night when no one else is around.
When something goes wrong — and it always does — he’s the one who gets the call. Broken pipes, a bad odor, a security alarm: Horace is there.
He’s the public face of his department. If a favorite chair disappears from an office, a meeting suddenly needs a microphone, a bird flies through the hallway: Horace gets the call.
It’s a stressful job. A million things can happen in a school, and in his time as head of its staff, Horace has seen them all.
But he never stops smiling. He never stops working. He never stops serving his school, and everyone in it.
In 2011, Cleaning and Maintenance Management ran a story called “The Custodian’s Secret Life.” In it, they quoted Horace: “The best part about the job is taking care of students and the school, making sure you guys are safe during the day.”
You’ve done that and much more, Horace. Thank you for all of it. Enjoy retirement.
And even if you’re a bit embarrassed by this: You’re our Unsung Hero of the Week.