After hours: A day in the life of a KHS custodian

Custodian+Deborah+Stovall%E2%80%99s+laugh+echoes+as+she+jokes+with+her+co-workers+and+goes+about+her+daily+routine%E2%80%94+maintaining+a+clean+learning+environment+for+almost+two+thousand+students.+

Mary Grace Heartlein

Custodian Deborah Stovall’s laugh echoes as she jokes with her co-workers and goes about her daily routine— maintaining a clean learning environment for almost two thousand students.

The hallways of KHS are empty. It is a Friday afternoon, and students have gone home to relax after a long week, but the janitorial staff’s day has barely begun. Custodian Deborah Stovall’s laugh echoes as she jokes with her co-workers and goes about her daily routine— maintaining a clean learning environment for almost two thousand students.

“Everything’s busy,” Stovall said. “The best part is when all the kids are home and everything dies down. Everything’s quiet.”

Stovall said she remembers Kirkwood students from earlier years as more friendly. She said that she feels more disconnected from students now than in her first years at KHS, with students today less likely to engage in conversation with her.

“I’ve been working at Kirkwood for a long time,” Stovall said. “I’ve been here [for] a lot of kids. [Today] they’re hilarious, but not like the kids we had back in the day. They were more polite. They would talk to you, laugh with you. I still have some kids that talk to me [and] tell me their stories. But it’s not like it used to be.”

Back in the day, [students] would listen to any adult. If an adult tells you what to do, you do it,” Stovall said. “Now, [students] look at me like I’m just a custodian, like I’m just supposed to clean up.”

— Deborah Stovall

Stovall mentioned a difficulty for her is the cleanup after KHS lunch hours.
She said students leave messes all over the school, making her job harder at the end of the day.

“If I could change one thing, it would be the [students] eating all over the place. They eat everywhere and leave their trash everywhere. They eat in the bathroom too. Who eats lunch in the bathroom? Clean up after yourself, [and] eat in one spot,” Stovall said, smiling as she reconsidered. “Well, not in the cafeteria, because I clean that.”

According to Stovall, she feels students treat her differently because of her job. She said she notices a lack of respect from students when compared to other KHS staff members.

“Back in the day, [students] would listen to any adult. If an adult tells you what to do, you do it,” Stovall said. “Now, [students] look at me like I’m just a custodian, like I’m just supposed to clean up.”

Dr. Michael Havener, principal, said he has also noticed a lack of respect for KHS custodians. He said students’ idea of the custodial staff’s job is often misguided.

“Most people say ‘Well, it’s [the custodian’s] job to clean up after me,’ that’s what I hear the most. That’s not their job,” Havener said. “Their job is to help us create an environment that allows us to focus on our education. They’re working tremendously hard to provide an educational opportunity for students, staff and the community, and they’re a vital part of what we do here.”

Other members of the custodial staff said KHS students are generally respectful. According to Bryan Freeman, custodian, the amount of activity and involvement opportunities in Kirkwood make the job of a KHS custodian uniquely difficult.

“Personally, I haven’t had that [disrespect],” Freeman said. “The kids that I’ve actually talked with, I thought they were respectful. They treated me the same as everybody else. If I could change something, it would just be all the [activities] they have going on. This isn’t a regular school, they have stuff every day, every night. If they didn’t, it would be easy to clean.”

Stovall emphasized that all people deserve the same level of respect, regardless of their occupation. She said that she hopes students remember she is a person, separate from her job.

“What I do, this uniform, this isn’t me,” Stovall said. “This is the job, but this isn’t me.”