I am excited to share another Walking in the Shoes experience….this time with Mikol Gugich, Custodian at Fairhaven Middle School.

Custodian, Mikol Gugich

Here’s a summary of a fabulous day learning what it’s like to keep an entire middle school open, safe, clean and ready for 600 eager learners!

I arrived at Fairhaven Middle School at 6:30 a.m. We began with a safety checkthroughout the building, inside and out. We check that all doors are locked, windows are closed, and that there is nothing suspicious about the grounds. We begin turning certain lights on in the hallways, balancing the need for staff coming in early to be able to see with the need to conserve energy to save dollars that can then be focused on classroom support.

We then spend time checking the calendar for the day, important emails and making a list of projects. Today at 1 p.m., we have safety and security consultants coming to do aschool safety audit. This is paid for by our recent bond and a large matching grant. The result will be recommendations on future safety improvements to all our schools.

We stop by the staff lounge to do some clean up, then do some laundry in Mikol’s office. We sort and fold towels that will be used by us, as well as the kitchen staff.

We walk through the building again turning on more lights as most staff are arriving.  Then we’re off to the lunchroom to prepare for breakfast. We set up a small number of chairs and tables.  There’s a whole science to setting up lunchroom tables.  One misstep and you could tweak your back for a month. Mikol does a great job teaching me and ensuring I stay safe.

It’s 8:15 a.m.: time for the front doors to open!  There is a massive group of students waiting just outside. Mikol gives me instructions on how to unlock the doors. As I unlock each one, students come streaming in, laughing and smiling, ready for their day of middle school!  Students go to their lockers, play ping pong and foosball, visit the library, eat breakfast, drop off instruments…I spend time in the lunchroom greeting students and helping them as they drop off their trays/garbage.

Throughout the day there are a couple of moments where kids are in some type of crisis situation, whether sitting on a bench crying or upset as they walk down the hall.  Each time, it was interesting to watch how quickly an adult stepped in to support them.  I realize custodians see a lot. Throughout the day, we observe/interact with nearly every student. It’s interesting watching the students and wondering how they each are doing. Are they connected? Have friends? Doing well in classes?

Mikol makes an observation around how well students interact with and support our students in the Life Skills program. I think many of these students went to school together at Wade King.  It’s great to see students interact and treat each other with such respect.

At 9:30, we get a short break, and I hear about Mikol’s background, his family, his passion around wrestling, and his appreciation for how hard staff work in the school.

Right after our break: the highlight of the day: the boiler just went down! No hot water for the entire school. Awesome!! J We quickly go to the boiler room and identify the problem with one of the boilers. We call for some support from Buildings and Grounds. In no time, Bryan Gust, our plumber arrives. Fixed in no time!

Throughout the day, we continuously respond to staff that need assistance.  We help our cafeteria staff in greasing/cleaning a large can opener. We find some duct tape for an English class. We hang a whiteboard in an office. It’s wonderful to be able to help so many people.  The more they can focus on their work, i.e. teaching, cooking… the better for kids.

It’s now time to go get the lunchrooms set up. Now this is a chore! Set up all the tables and chairs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Mikol shows me how to do (what I call) the “Dance of the Chairs”! It’s a true art to set up a table and get chairs around it in record time. I enjoy the challenge.

During lunch, I get to interact with students, speak to our Food Services staff, and help keep the place tidy. After lunch, it’s clean up time, where we break down tables, stack chairs, sweep and mop the floor (I get to use some type of cleaning zamboni for the first time!) and put everything back in its original place.

The last thing on our list is preparing for a school assembly. After just cleaning the entire cafeteria and putting everything away, including all the chairs, it’s kind of disheartening to now think about unstacking all the chairs and putting them all out. As we begin though, in comes a music class, filled with students anxious to help us. It’s great. Within minutes tons of students are helping us pass chairs down a line, like a fire bucket brigade. The assembly set-up is done in record time. Really shows what teamwork can accomplish.

As the assembly begins, our shift ends, and the evening custodian arrives. What a great day Walking in the Shoes of a Custodian. When I think about my day and The Bellingham Promise, it resonates with our vision: “We, as a community, make a collective commitment to Bellingham’s children.” It really takes all of us to make this magic work.  I also think about our core value of “compassion and service build community.

Thank you, Mikol, and thank you Fairhaven students and staff for helping ensure The Bellingham Promise is alive and well.

4 Comments

  1. What a nice tribute to Mikol! Custodians are incredibly hard-working, skillful and so often unsung. I’m glad that you were able to share some of the key tasks, problem-solving and leadership that goes into such a role.

    • I agree. Our staff are incredibly hard-working and deserve recognition! I continue to learn so much from my “walking in the shoes” experiences with students and staff.

  2. He used to be the custodian and Northern Heights. At the end of year assembly when it was time to say goodbye to Mr. Mikol I (a parent) could see that the kids were truly sad to see him go. He made an impact on them!

    I love reading the behind the scenes viewpoint here. It gives me a greater appreciation of all the effort that goes into providing a healthy learning environment for our kids, beyond the classroom. Thanks!

    • Thank you! I enjoy spending a day walking in the shoes of staff throughout our district. In the coming months I’ll continue this work. I think it is extremely valuable to see how different parts of our district work together to create a fantastic public school experience for our students.

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