Home Features The stewards of Cuesta College: more than a custodian

The stewards of Cuesta College: more than a custodian

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By Taylor Saugstad
Managing Editor of Design & Layout

On a many cold evening, they walk nearly eight miles while cleaning and maintaining an area equivalent to almost an acre. This is a typical shift of a Cuesta College custodian.

Custodians provide many more services than just cleaning and maintaining the campus. They provide labor for special events like meetings, commencement, sporting events and there’s the occasional placement of mouse traps.

“The scope of what we do here is very wide, from janitorial to a handyman, everything in-between, from general maintenance to being an exterminator,” Joel Carlson, a 33-year custodian. “We do everything except electrical and plumbing.”

Before a student comes to class, a custodian has vacuumed the floor, washed the desks, cleared out the trash cans to provide a clean campus.

These people and the jobs they do help Cuesta to be a successful learning environment for students, teachers and staff.

The custodian staff is made up of 22 employees, 18 of which work on the SLO campus and four of which work on the North County campus. Each custodian cleans and maintains their own area of the campus.

If a fellow custodian is out sick, they shift from their individual work to teamwork, picking up the slack, cleaning the most important areas first, preserving the campus’s usual cleanliness.

Custodians see one of their main responsibilities as keeping a healthy campus, helping students and staff maintain a healthy lifestyle. They do this by keeping door handles and desks sanitized to cut down on the number of colds and spreading of the flu.

Working with various chemicals and disinfectants, especially in the pool locker rooms, demands expertise in order to keep students and staff safe.

“We’re here to give a nice clean and safe environment for the students. To take care of the needs of the many by the few,” said Kevin Whitten, a 17-year lead custodian.

According to several custodians, one of the most unpleasant tasks to deal with is cleaning up after students who chew and spit tobacco or have thrown-up in the bathroom.

One constant issue that arises is cleaning the graffiti off the restroom stalls and mirrors. Some people make a point of leaving “their mark” or “their art” around the campus restrooms. A student was even apprehended and fined for the defacement of state property.

Dealing with various wildlife associated with a country setting is a unique aspect of the job. It’s not unusual to find a raccoon, opossum or even fox dining in the outside garbage cans.

Helpfulness, basic kindness and looking out for students are some of the qualities not written into their job description, but Cuesta custodians accomplish this everyday.

Custodians are aware of the entire layout of the campus, whereas, students and staff may only be familiar with where their classes are. If you need to ask directions to a classroom or building, custodians lead the way.

When students forget their laptop or textbook in a classroom, custodians are there to open the door. When cell phones, purses or wallets are found, they hand it over to the Cuesta Police Department’s lost and found.

When lights have gone out in a parking lot or you are walking alone at night, custodians will regularly walk students and staff to their cars. Remember, there are more custodians than there are police or campus security. They consider watching over the students and the campus as part of their job.

They can easily see when something is out of place or needs attention, no matter how big or small, and are able to fix it by the next day.

Custodians look at the big picture while being able to look at the smaller things as well, such as, making sure all the restrooms are open during finals week.

“We’re here to do our job, we give 100 percent everyday and sometimes even more,” said Whitten.

For most, being a Cuesta custodian is their second job: John Boronka works as a writer and graphic designer, Glenda Ferguson is a home healthcare worker, and Alvin Asuncion is a guitar painter. Some own businesses, such as Brenda Pinson, who own’s a beauty salon and Jessie Jagonase, whose family runs a janitorial service.

“We have a really diverse staff. Five women, five Hispanics, three Filipinos, one black and five Caucasians,” said Whitten.

Most custodians start their day around 5 p.m. and work well past 1 a.m. Since they arrive to work at dinnertime, they often plan out a meal schedule and eat dinner together. Walking past a custodial closet, you would expect the smell of cleaning supplies, but instead you’re greeted with the  pleasant aroma of their dinner.

If the campus was not clean, students would notice. But since the campus is clean, the custodians’ job goes almost unnoticed. The first few morning classes are the only ones to see what a great job the custodians did the night before.

“I feel they are doing a great job, overall I feel that my morning classes are always really clean,” said Kaito Okamoto-Garson, 1st year psychology major. “As the day goes on, the classrooms feel moved into, the rows start to shift and there’s more crumbs on the floor. You can almost tell what time of the day it is based on how messy the rooms are.”