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Behind The Scenes In Crestwood Schools

January 23, 2019 GMT

Most students barely manage to drag themselves into school for the first bell at 7:30. A lucky few who participate in dual enrollment struggle to wake up even later. Can you imagine being in school by 6 every morning? Not just for a year or two, but for 19? This is the life of Pasquale Calabrese, head custodian at Crestwood High School. Calabrese is one of many people who work behind the scenes for the school district, whose contributions are an absolute necessity to keep the school running. Others like him include members of the cafeteria staff, like Suzanne Smith, and employees of the guidance department, like Sue Johnson. There’s a common thread between these employees: they work odd hours, they’re underpaid, yet they still greatly enjoy their jobs. The resounding sentiment of Calabrese, Smith, and Johnson is complete delight in their employment. Calabrese puts it simply in saying, “I love what I’m doing.” His only complaint? “Lifting heavy boxes.” Smith agrees, saying “I like everything (about my job)! I love everything! I really don’t have anything (I dislike). I really can’t say.” Johnson confirms this attitude by saying, “I am actually old enough to retire, but I love my job and there’s no reason for me to leave.” Although all three are fond of their jobs, none of them set out looking for the job that they do now. Each of them instead had one major factor in their job-hunting that was important to them. Both Smith and Johnson made their children the priority in their decision making, choosing a job that would allow them to be home at the same time that their children got home from school. Calabrese’s approach to career-selection was based on slightly different priorities. In his words, “I was looking for a job, it was open, and I got it! Plus, it’s close to home.” But as children grow up and priorities shift, what keeps these people working here? A different set of children have become important in their lives: the students of Crestwood High School. From Johnson’s point of view, “the best part of my job is the contact with the students. Whether under good or bad conditions, I see lots of young men and women through the course of the day ... a lot of them tell me what’s going on in their lives, like sports, music, work, home. I love this part of my job.” Calabrese also enjoys interacting with students, and he treats them almost like an extended family. “I’m kind of friendly to everybody. I try to joke with everybody,” he says. What seems to be a big part of how easy it is to get along with Crestwood students is how respectful they are. As Smith says, “they’re very nice, very polite, kind– when they come through our line they are.” Mrs. Johnson affirms the value of this, saying “we are lucky that most of the students here have been taught to respect adults.” Overall, Crestwood employees get along really well with students, as Calabrese explains when he says, “I see a lot of kids (who are) really respectful. They’re really trying to help sometimes, which is great. It’s good.” As many positive experiences as these three people share, there is one regrettable circumstance that binds them – they are all chronically undervalued, and the true extent of their work often goes unrecognized. Smith sums this up by saying, “we all work very hard. (Our work is) a very important part of the school system, and sometimes people don’t see it that way.” Johnson agrees. “I sometimes think people in the community or school administration don’t know how much I do,” she says. But there is a silver lining with regard to this issue. Johnson continues by saying, “the teachers, counselors and students ... always tell me that I am appreciated”. All in all, the value of people doing jobs like Calabrese, Smith, and Johnson is immense, even though their careers don’t have the same level of visibility as a teacher or an administrator. “A lot of wonderful people in this building (work) behind the scenes,” confirms Johnson’s coworker, guidance counselor Joel Heintzelman. He elaborates on the importance of employees such as these, saying, “there is not one person in the school who doesn’t know Mrs. Johnson.” Although employees like Johnson are easily recognizable to almost everyone, their contributions to the school district remain practically unrecognized. This should not be the case. Simply put, without these people, the school would not function. Yet students hardly stop to thank them, or even to think about how important they are. A big part of this lack of consideration is the chaos in the daily life of a student. Too often, major milestones fly by and are transformed into memories in the blink of an eye. Winter formal just passed on Dec. 7, and students are already preparing themselves for the spring semi-formal and prom. Football season has come and gone, wrestling and basketball are winding to a close, and spring sports are already gearing up with open gyms. For this year’s seniors, graduation is racing into reality at a breakneck pace, and the many who have chosen to go on to college are beginning to receive acceptance letters and put down deposits. In the whirlwind of tests, planning, and decisions, it’s important to take some time to remember the people that have stood behind you every step of the way: the people who work behind the scenes. Madison Weiss is a senior at Crestwood High School. Student columns are published Wednesdays during the school year.