Cleaning Consequences

Excerpt from interview with Mr. Craven

Okay, so can you kind of explain the devious links that are going on, explain them, or what’s going on with that?

“Well, if there’s a good part to it. It seems to have rapidly come to an end. I have not been told of any new incidents of damage or theft, but it obviously did occur here… I’m still waiting to hear back from the head head custodian, who works out of Facilities and Operations, is trying to get a basically like an itemized list of prices or the costs for things that are the mechanicals, that are in the in the schools, which suffered damage or were stolen. And that list included bathroom fixtures like, hot water, you know the spigots and the faucets, fire extinguishers; the round clocks that are on the wall; and my best guess, just looking at some of the stuff that I was able to actually identify, that I could come up with was at least $10,000 worth of material that is gone. Some of the other things that either were damaged or stolen during the whole briefly lived devious licks thing was soap dispensers and hand sanitizer dispensers, little plastic thing that goes on the wall. It took me all just about a year to get enough to have them spread throughout the building…

Right now, there is an issue with shipping. That is nationwide and it’s not just affecting schools it’s affecting everything where getting things from point A to point B is difficult, because there’s either not enough drivers trucks or down to trucks need parts, the parts have to be shipped it takes six to eight weeks, sometimes for things to get shipped from one side of the country to the other, or from one city to the other. So I have absolutely no idea. Maybe when the things that have been taken, were damaged, I have no idea when they’re going to get replaced. And so that’s that kind of ripple effect of unintended consequences that I mentioned…Well, if I don’t have soap dispensers in the restrooms, it’s a sanitary thing, you know, then that restroom has to be closed. Well that’s an inconvenience for everybody, Free State lucked out, in that it didn’t go as completely wacky as things went at Lawrence high and the damage there is far greater than what occurred here.

My initial guess of around 100 grand might have to be the number reduced a little bit but that’s also factoring in labor. People have to, you know, that’s time taken away from the other duties that we have to do repairs that cost money. And remember, again, there’s not a lot of maintenance people were understaffed and maintenance, and there’s only so many things, you know so many supplies to go around. So then it becomes a ‘what school gets what stuff’ and which school has to wait longer. So, that the ripples of those unintended consequences, spread out all across the district.”

What does that do to morale, when you’re already understaffed and don’t have a budget and then kids just go and steal stuff?

“We’re trying, you know, and the, the core group, because that’s all that’s left is a small handful of people that I have, as, as custodians. I call it the Free State curse-get some really good people in, and they learn how to clean a school in some place -that if you were to take free state, which is, as I said, 300,000 square feet for this building sits on over 70 acres of grass and astroturf and parking lots and all of that…It’s right around 77 acres. You scooped it up and plopped it out in western Kansas, this would be a junior college, It’s, it’s huge. It’s gigantic. And we’d get people trained up, and they would be fantastic.

And the shortages are the short staff isn’t just, you know, isolated here at free state, there’d be middle schools or some great schools, they lose a custodian, that’s it, they don’t have one…They get picked up transferred across the district so they’re running for a park or Sunset Hill. And once again, I’m down one or two or three custodians. The people that I still have here are working as hard as they can to try to keep this building, clean, and make it look good because we take pride in the in the job that we do, what it does to morale is, it’s a kick in the gut. It really is that we’re then having to work overtime. Just trying to barely get by, and just keep our heads above water. And then the devious licks thing came along. And, you know, to be honest, it was basically just a slap in the face. I know that the large percentage of the student population here does care about, you know, they know right from wrong and they know that that wasn’t cool. Yet, there was, and there still probably is some kid that says, but it’s still kind of funny. It’s not funny. It’s not because somebody has to clean it up. Somebody has to work to repair the damage, and then go back in and see the same thing damaged, again, you know, it’s like a lot of disrespect.

From a very small number of people, affects everybody in the building. And, you know, I’ve heard that people kind of grumble… ‘Why was this bathroom closed I’ve got to walk all the way down the hall.’ It’s not a teacher’s fault, and it’s not the parents fault and it’s not Mr Gregory’s fault, it’s not Steve Cravens fault, it’s whoever decided, hey, I think this is a good idea. Let me bust this sink. And, you know, it’s just unfortunate that all it would have taken would have been two seconds of ‘maybe this isn’t a good idea. Maybe I shouldn’t do that.’ But some decided, no, what the heck.”

What’s one thing that you want our student body to know?

“You know the school motto, there’s posters up, they’ve been up since when I started, I started I was working on night shift. And I’d see those posters and I’d hear the announcements and they’d be respect, responsibility and excellence, –three simple words, but it’s exceedingly important to really think about that because it’s not just, you know, some kind of silly phrase or something that that’s what grownups or the adults are saying, whatever. It goes a long way of having respect for the building, you’re spending a tremendous amount of time of your lives in, you know, surrounded by 1800 plus of your peers for four years of your life. It’s important to have respect for where you are spending that time, and for the people that are around you, not just your, your peers, but the faculty, food service. Because when you maintain that idea of respect and responsibility, and excellence, it’s gonna go with you after you graduate.

Once you get out into the real world. Once you have a job, which paying bills, and doing all that stuff that is coming for every single one of them. The people who go to this school, and all across Douglas County across Kansas and across the country. You can’t mandate or make other people do that, it’s something that you have to kind of cultivate within yourself. And if it’s something that you do, it improves your life and improves the life around, you know, it affects other people in a positive way. So, not making a giant mess at lunch, you know, picking up your stuff, throw it in the trash. These are things kind of basically learned from grade school, right, it’s like, crisscross applesauce, put your toys in the cubby. It’s just now at the high school level, don’t trash the place. Treat people nice, and it makes it easier for those of us who were here long after the building is empty. Working at night, pulling trash, clean and restrooms, doing all the stuff that we have to do when everybody is practicing that respect, responsibility and excellence. It makes our job easier. If only by a little bit. And that little bit helps right now because I don’t have enough people…

I stress the fact that I don’t cast a wide net when I was getting kind of angry about the devious licks and the damage and the stuff that was happening. That happened, you know, pretty much close to the end of my two week or, you know, the pay periods to two weeks 40 hours a week is normal hours. Almost had almost 30 hours of overtime. When I clocked out on Friday last because I’m short during the day. So I’m doing my job. Daytime custodians job groundskeeper was out on family leave, so I’m doing groundskeeping job. You know, it’s a lot of hats to wear. It’s a lot of job a lot of work to do. So I was putting in 16-18 hour days. And to have that happen. In the midst of of that being so short, was. It was hard. It was really hard for me to deal with. I. It made me wonder, it’s like, you know, is this worth it. You know, it is… I really enjoy the people that I do work with the faculty and students their kids give me high fives… I just don’t want more stuff added to my plate. Especially when it’s something just as asinine as, hey, this, this, this new cool thing, let’s destroy property and film ourselves doing it. Like seriously, just don’t do that.”

What are some specific examples that give you pride in your job?

“Well, one of the jobs that I had a number of years ago, was I worked for a car dealership in town, and I was in the detail department. The owner of the business would make sure that the worst, nastiest, dirtiest trade in cars were sent to me, because I could take something that looked like wild raccoons had been living in it and make it spotless. It was, attention to detail. Getting things, you know, that looked horrible to look great. And it wasn’t a difficult step for me to go from that to trying to do the same thing, only just scaled up to 300,000 square feet. I do take pride in the work that I do. And in trying to work with and instill kind of the same focus with the, the folks that are on both day and night shift. It’s, it’s not something that I find right push it. Well, you have to, you know this is a requirement, you have to this really high bar set. But if I’m going to lead and want a specific result, I gotta lead by example. So, I do the messy jobs…

You know, there’s a difference between a custodian and a janitor. And we’re not like real prickly about it, but we’re the caretakers of this building, janitorial service is usually somebody that you know they show up in a van, they come out, they do their thing and they leave. It’s just one of a few buildings or a few properties that they do during the week. We’re here all year round. We take care of the same rooms 12 months out of the year. We’ve built relationships with the faculty and the staff in knowing how they want their room set, or what it is that we can do to help them out. And so that takes it past just a clock in, clock out job. There’s, there’s an attachment to the to the building and to the people that we worked with, and we want to take care of my question.”

 What are some of the specific things that those students did?

“Three round clocks, the little black framed circular analog clock, look at that and says Target 10 bucks. It’s 120 bucks, because it has an antenna on it, so that they can all set at the same time. I don’t know when I’m going to get more. One of the three that was stolen was returned. Whoever took it. Maybe was told, Hey, you better turn it back in. I don’t know but it was returned… Just really just vandalism. Just destruction of property for no reason other than what some social media credit, which doesn’t really do anything. I don’t get it yet. I didn’t grow up in the computer age and social media age. So, I’m looking at this through a lens or through eyes that are completely different. And so, I, but I do understand the, the bit of, well there’s peer pressure and there’s one to fit in and good, but it still comes back to what’s right, what’s wrong. Everybody in this building. Even the ones who did it. The ones who considered it, whatever, you know, a right.

And not one person who did any of these things would have the nerve to do it while being watched by someone they wouldn’t just take a chair and break it in the middle of the commons… No, they wouldn’t do that. So they know what’s wrong. And I don’t know now I’m kind of rambling but it’s that that was the most difficult bit is that just a few did enough damage that it affects everybody and their needs. If it was up to me. Whoever did, whoever broke stuff, if it was found, you know, I would prefer that their disciplinary action, they’d be turned over to me. I put him to work a couple hours after school cleaning bathrooms, doing the jobs that we have to do. Try to work some of that off. It’s not going to happen, wish it would. There has to be consequence for actions that we take. Because you don’t get a free pass. Once y’all get out of high school. There isn’t a, oh well, you know, he was just there are prices that he had to pay. “