DURING THE 1970 spring semester at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), one of the courses I taught was a graduate class at South Garland High School.

The 30-member class was primarily composed of graduate students pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Administration. The 16-week class met each Monday for three hours, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The course was Educational Administration 620, “Personnel Administration in Public Schools.”

I usually arrived at the school about 4 p.m. On the first Monday, I saw one of the custodians, a man about 60 years of age, standing in the hallway. I spoke to him. He glared at me without acknowledging my “Good afternoon. How are you today?”

The following Monday the same one-way exchange occurred without any response from the khaki-clad custodian. This procedure took place 14 consecutive Mondays. After about four or five Mondays  of these one-way conversations, I vowed I would obtain some type of vocal exchange from him. It was like making a New Year’s resolution.

Entering the building for the 15th time, I silently thought, you’ve got to succeed today or next Monday – time is running out. As I entered the building, the custodian was standing in his normal place in the hall. I again spoke, “Good afternoon, how are you today?”

This time I received a response. It was gruff – “I don’t see anything good about it.” His response surprised me, and I struggled for words. I was finally able to utter, “Oh, it’s been a wonderful day.”

Before I could continue, he interrupted, “Not for me — come here, I have something to show you in the boys’ rest room. I want you to see how hard I work to keep this school clean, and what some of the students do to dirty up the building.”

In the rest room, someone had apparently sneaked out a dead frog from the biology lab. The frog had been dissected, and the remains were on the floor. It was a mess.

Before I could respond, the custodian said, “And this is what I work for.” This exchange initiated our first conversation. We briefly talked until it was time for me to walk down the hall to my class. As I departed, I patted him on the shoulder, trying to boost his morale.

The next Monday, we again spoke, and this time we shook hands. I invited him to accompany me to the class. The first thing on the agenda, even before checking the roll, was to introduce the custodian – “Here’s the individual, who keeps this building in tip-top shape. Let’s give him a hand.”

The 30 students stood up and applauded. This seemed to boost the custodian’s spirits more than a bottle of vitamins.   

After the custodian exited the room, I briefly related to the class the “The 16- Monday Story,” emphasizing this was “Personnel Administration in its real perspective.”

These were the words I used  to stress a custodian’s part in a school’s organization – “Remember people make an organization, and without people, an organization doesn’t exists.”