When thinking of schools, we oftentimes find ourselves concentrating on administration, teachers and students. An often overlooked and under-appreciated part of the school atmosphere are custodians.
A custodian is defined as a person who has responsibility for or looks after something, a person employed to clean and maintain a building.
We take for granted the bleachers that are cleaned moments after a game, or a shiny stage floor ready for a play, vacuumed rugs ready for playful preschools, the list is long and we should be thankful.
In definition and job description they maintain the buildings that we send our children to every day, maintaining the safety and security of the rooms where they learn, the halls where they converse and the gyms in which they play, sing, act, or create.
Tim Swaffer and Tim Knight started 30 years ago, within about six months of each other. Swaffer retired in October. Knight is scheduled to complete the full school year, retiring in August 2020.
Knight began at William Lynch Elementary School and was there about nine years. He was then named head custodian and remains at the high school to this day.
Knight smiled as he talked about Swaffer.
“He is one of the best workers I ever had,” he shared. Dozens of people have assisted Knight in maintaining all of the schools in the R-80 system. He said there is quite a bit of turnover. The most senior member of the custodian team after the retirees has been there about 11 years.
A lot has changed in the buildings he oversees. He mentioned the redesign and construction surrounding the campuses of the middle and high schools. Classroom designs have changed with advances in technology, and seating alternatives.
“The people, administrators, teachers have made it the most enjoyable,” he said.
One of his fondest memories is from William Lynch in the classroom of Marilyn Kaneaster. It was Christmastime and the classroom had a tree donated by a parent.
“It was one of those real little ones, and looked like it had been cut from a ditch, little branches and all,” Knight laughed.
“I went out and cut them a cedar tree. A big one that went floor to ceiling. My wife, Rita, and I took it in one night and surprised them the next day. Those students’ eyes were so big when they walked in,” he chuckled.
Three custodians were honored by art students recently. Isabella Knaack and Amy Chen created a wood burned and stained depiction of the custodians in the halls of the high school.
“It was a total surprise,” Knight said. “One day Mrs. Kettner came and took my picture and I thought, ‘that was kinda strange.’ A few weeks later, they showed me the finished art,” shared Knight.
Tim Knight is remembered by SHS alums as a helpful and friendly custodian. He was around for drama club, basketball games, choir concerts, and so much more. You may not see him or the other custodians much, but they are there, and they cannot be taken for granted.