Building Services “Backbone” of School

Alex Baden

Just four hours into the school year, Principal Christopher Garran’s voice was already blaring over the school’s PA system to make a familiar announcement, urging students to clean up after themselves. Garran has stressed this issue many times; he has closed down hallways and even threatened to end WJ’s open-lunch policy. Still, students continue to litter the hallways with empty water bottles and paper bags.

Everyday, however, the halls are swept clean with barely any notice. The building services staff, 19 members deep, arrive before anyone in the morning, and are the last people to leave at night. John Brooks, the manager of the day staff, has been cleaning up after WJ students for 22 years.

“We love the kids here,” he said. “So if the kids are going to class, doing what they need to do and getting good grades, then we’re happy.”

Business Manager Kathy Cosgrove, who supervises the building services staff, knows how integral the staff is to WJ.

“I think they’re the backbone of the school,” she said. “We would be nowhere without them.”

Brooks leaves his house at 12 a.m. every morning to work at his other job, where he is an assistant supervisor for a newspaper delivery company. Brooks loads trucks, hands out papers, covers routes that are down and fills in wherever else he is needed.

After he finishes supervising, Brooks makes his way to WJ. He arrives at 6 a.m. and consults his staff, who arrive at 5:30 a.m., and investigates any potential problems.

“We try to make sure everything is in order, ready for school to happen,” said Brooks. “Make sure we got power, make sure there’s no floods anywhere, make sure there’s no dangerous situations. If there are, we have to call the principal as soon as possible, and that’s when schools get shut down.”

Once students arrive, Brooks takes care of whatever problems may occur, from fixing broken desks to cleaning up after a sick student during flu season. Nonetheless, he always gives a smile to whoever passes by.

“I’m 57-years-old, working around students, and look at me!” said Brooks. “It keeps me young. I’m happy. Happy as happy can be.”

Cosgrove is more than satisfied with the job that her staff does.

“On a scale of one to ten, I give them a 15,” she said.

Once the bell rings to end school, Brooks can finally call it a day and go home to his wife.

“I try to spend as much time with her as I can, because I leave the house at 12 in the morning,” he said. “I go home, talk with her, take a good shower, eat a good meal and go to sleep. And then I get ready to do it all over.”

A Day in the Life

To fully complete my research on the building services staff, I decided to learn first-hand what it’s like to be a member of WJ’s building services staff.

I started my first day on the job in the cafeteria after lunch ended. My first task was to sweep the steps, which seemed easy enough. After I almost fell down the flight of stairs half dozen times, building services staff member Glen Stevens showed me how to improve my sweeping form.

Next, Building Services Day Manager John Brooks took me on the roof of the building, where he let me control the school’s air conditioning system.

We then met with business manager Kathy Cosgrove, who is also Brooks’ boss, and Assistant Principal Christopher Merrill, who oversees the school’s construction.

Day two gave me more responsibility. I cleaned the entire cafeteria floor, taking three times to sweep, mop, and polish it.

When I was cleaning the cafeteria, students who saw me cleaning assumed that I was being punished. After thinking about it, I realized that I did deserve my “punishment.” I’ve spent four years at WJ, and have taken total advantage of the fact that we have an exceptional building services staff.

John Brooks is undoubtedly the nicest man that I’ve ever come across at WJ, and just because he and his staff are willing to clean up after us without complaining doesn’t mean that we should let them.

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