Getting prepared for class

SANDUSKY Even though the halls of Jackson Jr. High are vacant during the weeks leading up to the fir
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Even though the halls of Jackson Jr. High are vacant during the weeks leading up to the first day back for students, school is still in session for those behind the scenes.

While teachers get a vast majority of the summer off, custodians, secretaries, principals, bus drivers and cafeteria workers hustle to get the school ready for the new year.

"We started working on this year before last year even ended," said Joani O'Rork, Jackson Jr. High administrative assistant.

O'Rork, who has been with Jackson for 13 years, said she may have July off, but before and after the month, the workload never ends.

"We start working on master (class) lists and placing teacher orders for the upcoming year before the school year ends," she said. "I also make sure all the teachers have their grades in and run grade cards. There's always so much to do."

Storing last year's files, updating school forms, depositing school fees, sorting and boxing all incoming orders, O'Rork said the list goes on and on.

With the craziness of students, parents and staff coming and going and the phone ringing constantly during the summer, O'Rork maintains a welcoming smile.

"I really love working with the kids," she said. "They're so fun, inventive, creative and still bright and open. The staff is great, and I have one of the best bosses I've ever had."

Down flights of stairs and hidden around corners, you'll find cafeteria manager Tammy Wilke working hard to get her space student- and staff-friendly.

"I've helped with painting the school over the summer, and we've just finished painting in here," she said motioning to a small room off the cafeteria decorated with a curtained window.

Well into the humid months of summer, Wilke can be found organizing the kitchen, making sure stock is received, ordered and put away as well as making sure student identification cards for lunch periods are ready to go.

Involved with the lunch program for 19 years, she said her position entails learning the likes and dislikes of the students and supplying the demand.

"When we've figured out some of the kids' favorites, I try to get those (items) served," she said.

A building consisting of about 87,000 square feet cannot just be left over the summer, which is why head custodian Dennis Fletcher is there.

With Jackson for 17 years, Fletcher said work never really stops, but kicks into full gear when the student wave good-bye.

"We clean the building top to bottom," he said. "With the schedule of events during the summer, we always have something to do."

Fletcher said that although summer cleaning and stocking is routine, the week before school is when he gets his "game face" on.

"Before opening day we wash all the windows, doors, check all the lights," he said. "We recheck the rooms we cleaned in June to rid them of dust. Everyday I'm here at 6 a.m."

Fletcher said that although his title is custodial, he gets called on by students and staff when there's a need for more desks in a classroom or for help fixing a pair of eyeglasses. His love for the school is apparent when he speaks of the kids and how amazing it is to see a student's growth from September to June.

"I'm very fortunate to be here," he said proudly. "Some people ask when I'm going to retire and I tell them, 'When they carry me out on a gurney.'"

On another route, those believing bus transportation meets an end with the school year would be surprised to know those in the department work harder during the so-called "off season."

"We take a breath, look at what happened and start back up immediately," Ted Peters, Sandusky schools transportation supervisor said of the year's close.

With about 4,700 students in the district both public and parochial, Peters said there isn't time to waste when the wheels stop rolling.

"That fax machine," he said pointing, "never stops printing papers from the schools with changes in addresses."

The department, which now organizes its 25 routes with the help of a computer application, makes changes for each bus rider up until the day before school and everyday thereafter.

"In July we get inspected by the State Highway Patrol," he said. "They determine if the buses will roll."

Peters said that several of his 25 drivers and 10 sub-drivers stay busy through the summer.

"They go and start washing and scrubbing (the buses), fixing loose seats," he said, estimating that with 33 buses, there's at least 10 hours of thorough cleaning and repair to each bus.

Aside from organizing bus routes and finding students who have moved, the department also runs state reports during the summer to report mileage and fuel costs to determine funding for the next year.

"We're always moving," he said. "The only thing consistent with this job is change itself."