Behind the scenes: Custodians go above, beyond for Delta

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TAKING OUT THE TRASH: Julian Avila sweeps up trash in a campus restroom. PHOTO BY KRISTEN RIEDEL
TAKING OUT THE TRASH: Julian Avila sweeps up trash in a campus restroom. PHOTO BY KRISTEN RIEDEL
TAKING OUT THE TRASH: Julian Avila sweeps up trash in a campus restroom. PHOTO BY KRISTEN RIEDEL

“My staff is probably the hardest working group out here,” said Salvador Rodriguez, Custodial/Grounds Manager.
Rodriguez supervises the 21 custodial and nine grounds people who keep the Delta facilities functional, clean, and attractive for the thousands of students, teachers, and other staff who walk onto the campus every day.

They consider these people to be their customers and they take their service seriously.

“I asked for the signs on the library tables [reminding people not to put up their feet] because it is my job to provide a germ free environment,” said Custodian Julian Avila.

He has worked at Delta for nearly ten years, the last three in the Goleman Library, and he’s been happily married to geology professor Gina Frost for 25 years.

Avila calls himself a “dog rescuer” because he rescued two Chihuahuas on the Delta campus, and one from Santa Cruz.

Custodian Sam Robinson studied IT at Delta, but in a flagging economy, he applied for this job four years ago to support his family.

“I’ve never had a job this intense, but I’ve never been paid as well either,” said Robinson.

Robinson takes care to clean the SCMA building well enough that he would let his 6-year-old daughter use the restrooms.

As time and energy allowed, he restored a 1970s minibike, which his wife would prefer he not ride.

Custodian Cenon Fisco has three grown children with his wife of 45 years, has worked at Delta for 26 years and thinks of himself as “the old timer.”

“Over here you look at me and I’m a custodian, but when I’m at home, that’s my kingdom,” said Fisco.

He considers his work at Delta to be what set the example for his children to work hard, get their educations and get the family one step higher as the second generation of Americans.

Fisco remembers the days when the department was fully staffed and there were four custodians per building, rather than the two, or sometimes one, trying to do the same amount of work.

“It would be nice if we had as many janitors now as we had ten years ago,” said Steve Schermerhorn, librarian.

The recent construction of the SCMA building has increased the cleanable square feet by 6 percent to 623,000.

This leaves each custodian to clean nearly 4,000 square feet per hour, from removing ceiling cobwebs, to cleaning stains out of carpets and every surface in between.

“You’ve got to manage your time and bounce from place to place,” said Robinson.

In addition to doing routine cleaning, the custodians have to deal with theft and vandalism issues.

“The title of custodian is more than a janitor, we have responsibility for facilities too,” said Robinson.

Rodriguez said that in 2011 the department lost 7,000 in toilet paper theft, not including the damage done to the dispensers.

In one week, last November, over 20 of the vending machines in the ladies rooms were broken into for the small stash of quarters inside.

New graffiti is first reported to the campus police before they begin the sometimes slow and painstaking process of removing the set-in stains, having them painted over as a last resort.

This is a fast paced and physically challenging job, but it’s not menial labor done by unskilled workers.

Custodians handle many different kinds of chemicals and must be aware of which to use on each surface and type of soil, as well as which chemicals should or shouldn’t be mixed.

The department conducts training on a regular basis to keep employees up to date on the best methods and equipment.

Despite the conception that these men and women are “just janitors”, each of them are working hard to provide their customers with a clean and safe environment.

“They work so hard and always do so with a smile on their face,” said Mary Weppler, librarian.