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How I Handled...

A Custodian Who
Wasn't Doing His Job

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One of my custodians had a habit of blowing off staff requests for cleaning, repair, maintenance, and other projects. As staff complaints grew, it became clear that some kind of action needed to be taken to ensure that he would do his job.

The Problem:

Our head custodian had developed a somewhat notorious reputation for ignoring simple requests for essential maintenance and repairs. His colleagues and other staff members were frustrated with his inattention to requests for service. I was briefed on this matter and asked to intervene.

The Solution:

After verifying that the staff concerns I'd heard were indeed legitimate, I called a meeting with the custodian. I informed him that, due to the number and nature of the complaints I had received, I would require him to maintain a journal (log) of the daily projects and activities he performed. I required him to submit the log each Friday afternoon for my review. This procedure would continue in place for at least one semester. At that point, we would review the plan. Use of the journal would continue until, in my administrative discretionary authority, it was no longer necessary.

The Reflection:

This strategy worked to near perfection. The weekly documentation helped me stay abreast of the status of significant tasks. I was especially interested in monitoring work-in-progress and jobs that were pending due to reasons that included waiting for required materials or parts; the need for special tools or equipment; or the need for additional manpower.

I made a point of following up log entries by having conversations with faculty members; I did that in order to verify that projects were actually completed satisfactorily and within a reasonable time frame.

It would be an understatement to say that the custodian did not appreciate my supervisory oversight. He felt it was demeaning and unnecessary. I made sure he understood, in no uncertain terms, that I was equally unhappy about having to do it. The extra time and energy I would have to devote to this matter was not my idea of a good time! However, the custodian understood that I was following the protocol and that the process could be adjusted if he demonstrated a consistent pattern of quick and effective response to staff requests for clean-up, projects, or repairs. The custodian was very motivated to get the proverbial "monkey off his back" (me); that could/would be accomplished if he made a concerted effort to be attentive to staff needs.

I plan to start the new term without requiring the log. Time will tell if the custodian has learned a valuable lesson and whether his credibility among staff has been restored. We shall see...

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. How I Handled team members are anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.


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