Everyday we walk through the doors of Hunterdon Central, we come into a safe, clean, and structured environment to learn. From the teachers who instruct us to the subject department supervisors and administrators who ensure that each department runs smoothly, we are lucky to have individuals who constantly look out for our well-being. However, one department that does so much for this school that often goes unrecognized is the Operations Department. You might be asking, who is part of the Operations Department and what exactly do they do? To find out, I interviewed the Director of Operations, Donald Thornton.
Thornton explains that the Operations Department oversees all the non-instructional needs of the school. They support the school by making sure that it is clean and safe to enter and guarantee that the school is ready to go by the early start of the school day. The department is in charge of “everything inside the building, from cleaning to making sure the heat, air conditioning, plumbing, and electricity works.” Thornton continues, “We do everything outside the school from making sure the grass is cut to the fields being ready for athletics that happen after school and snow removal during the winter”. Evidently, the Operations Department is usually tasked with the jobs that many of us students sometimes take for granted.
Although there are many people that make up this department, the members you probably come in contact with most are part of the custodial staff. And while we may always see them cleaning the halls and classrooms after school, how often do you say “hello” or hold a conversation with one of them?
When asked about what the custodial staff exactly does, Thornton described the breakdown of the staff. “There are five custodial staff who work during the day (from around six o’clock in the morning to around two or three in the afternoon) to make sure everything stays clean throughout the school day… Twenty-two staff members work at night. They go through classrooms, make sure the trash is taken out, and keep the bathrooms clean, working from about three in the afternoon [until] around eleven in the evening depending on what events are going on after school that day.”
There are also members of the Operations Department who maintain the buildings and grounds as well as maintenance, handling everything from electricity to plumbing. These are mainly tradesmen, and at Hunterdon Central, there are nine of them. Ms. Gene manages the office of the Operations Department and makes sure that all the bills get paid.
“There is a lot more that goes into [the maintenance of the school] than people think,” says Thornton. “It’s a lot of behind the scenes work.” In addition to the day-to-day tasks that need to be completed, the Operations Department also handles event set-up and breakdown for all major events at Hunterdon Central, including basketball games and musical concerts. With a student body as large as Central’s, there is always something going on. Many of the staff even end up working weekends just to make sure that everything that goes on at the school runs efficiently.
Learning the day-to-day tasks of these hard workers, it’s easy to say that the Operations Department is the glue that hold this school together. When asked if Thornton thought the department received the recognition deserved for the amount of work put in, he said, “I think so. There is a lot of times we go above and beyond, and we get emails.” He explains that they get a lot of thanks for the work that they do, saying that it is because the work completed is “good, steady, and honest work.”
“I think a lot of their work is observed and doesn’t go unnoticed,” Thornton says while reflecting on the praise of the custodial staff. However, he suggests that there are ways that students can help show appreciation for our custodial staff specifically. “It’s true for here and everywhere else. Be aware of the impact you have. Make sure don’t leave a mess behind you; pick up trash, and don’t leave it behind.”
Thornton says that the custodial staff is “a lot of fun to be around”. He always enjoys working with them because based on their diligent work ethic, they are very hard working and considerate people. Some of them have been at Central for over 20 years! They are a very interesting, fun, and kind group. Next time you are in the halls and see one of our custodial staff, make sure you tell them thank you for all that they do and the hard work they put into this school!