News Local

'They're an integral part of the team'

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Don Sprunt loves to say hi.

The Hillcrest Public School custodian probably says hello to a hundred or more people any given morning.

That's fine by him, and the students, staff and parents who meet up with him in the Barrie school's halls.

"I greet anybody and everybody in the morning, and ask them how they are doing," he said Wednesday.

Sprunt, and the other 350 permanent staff -- and about 100 occasional workers -- in the 16 high schools and 89 elementary

schools of Simcoe County District School Board, are being recognized during Custodian Appreciation Week.

"Every day is different," he said, while watching school board managers and supervisors pitch in to help him with his rounds at the Toronto Street school as their contribution to the appreciation week.

"I like working with the students and the staff. They're friendly and polite," Sprunt said, adding it's giving them a hand.

"I help the Green Team (the school's recycling program). They do most of the collecting, I just cart it out to the bins," he said. "It's nice to work along with the kids."

That kind of dedication is what makes custodians special, according to custodial services manager, Susan Justus.

"They're a lot more than cleaners, they are building operators. They have technical skills and a lot of the buildings' operations are (centred) around computers," she said. "They are dealing with the children and dealing with the community."

Assistant custodial manager Jaci Pitocco said custodians have a special place in the school environment.

Although it's been 11 years since Pitocco swept a classroom, she was behind a push broom helping Sprunt celebrate appreciation week.

"Teachers change, but custodians

are a constant for the kids. It could be something like fixing a zipper in a kid's coat or getting a ball from the roof," she said, adding the J-word-- janitor -- is a no-no.

"Custodian implies ownership and caring. Janitor implies just cleaning. It's way more than that," Pitocco said.

Hillcrest principal Paula Murphy agrees.

"They're an integral part of the team. It makes the kids feel good coming into a clean school," she said. "It's a team atmosphere, very positive, and they're great with the kids. They never say no to helping out with odd jobs."

Custodian Appreciation Week runs until Friday.

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