James Benge
James Benge, known fondly as “Sergeant” across the district, leads both custodial and sports program efforts KEITH WATKINS

After serving his country as a Marine, James Benge joined the New Rochelle City School District, New Rochelle, New York, as a full-time custodian. Fast forward over 30 years with the district, and his military background comes as little surprise to anyone who’s had the opportunity to meet him. Revered by students and staff alike as “Sergeant,” Benge brings an unwavering approach toward not only his custodial duties, but off-the-job contributions to the community, as well.

As a leader of a department responsible for over 530,000 square feet of cleaning and 3,400 students, Benge’s fellow custodians can count on him to arrive early and stay late on the busiest of days. Whether a task is his particular responsibility or not, he relishes any opportunity to make someone’s job easier through assistance or training.

Aside from helping his team, he goes out of his way to manage the supply storeroom for teachers, streamlining their process to get ready for the day.

“He’s an unselfish human being who puts others before himself all the time,” says Keith Watkins, assistant director of facilities for New Rochelle City School District. “James always greets you with a smile and genuinely cares how you’re doing and if you need anything — personally or at work. He takes pride in every aspect of his job and is an example to coworkers and more importantly, our students.”

The end of a shift may spell the end of Benge’s cleaning duties, but rarely does it indicate the end of his day altogether. As an active contributor to the district’s extra-curricular activities, Benge serves as both a mentor and organizer for several programs, including football and cheerleading.

Many of these efforts are geared toward inclusivity for all students, whether they are playing on the teams or not.

“James recently set up a program with our special needs students and used their assistance in folding football uniforms,” says Watkins. “He takes the time for any opportunity to mentor our youth.”

Each month this section will recognize an outstanding frontline janitor. To nominate a deserving employee, email james.degraff@tradepress.com