An unused weed sprayer becomes a mixing unit for a disinfectant cleaner.  The “Golden Dust Pan Award” encourages cleaner classrooms.  Training sessions encourage proper hand washing and sanitizing among students and faculty.
These are snapshots of what custodians across America are doing to help keep our schools clean and safe.  And they represent the actions of five custodians who’ve received 2010 C.L.E.A.N.® Awards - Custodial Leaders for Environmental Advocacy Nationwide. The program, in its second year, is sponsored by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), the National Education Association (NEA), and NEA’s Health Information Network (HIN).
The top recipient, Patrick Lortie of Indiana’s Woodlan Junior-Senior High School in Woodburn, received a prize package that included a cash award and recognition at the NEA’s 2010 National Education Support Professionals Conference.
“Cleaning for Health – Not Just for Appearance”
During his 22 years as head custodian, Patrick has shown a knack for innovation.  For instance, an unused, clean weed sprayer became a mixing unit for disinfectant cleaner to quickly spray locker rooms, wrestling mats and restrooms, minimizing the likelihood of contamination.
During the installation of hand sanitizing units throughout the building, he improvised a “mobile sanitizing cart” by mounting a hand sanitizing dispenser on a rolling cart.  This gave students and staff ready access to a cleaning station wherever they were, especially important while waiting in the lunch line.
“Cleaning for health - and not just for appearance - has the power to impact how students learn and staff perform,” Patrick Lortie said.  “Keeping students and staff safe and healthy can have a direct impact on student achievement and is a major step forward in the educational process.”
Outstanding Leadership in School Cleanliness
Four other custodians from across the nation were recognized as runners-up for their outstanding leadership in school cleanliness.
West Chester, OH
Rick Larkin, head custodian at Hopewell Elementary in West Chester, Ohio, is a member of the school’s indoor air quality team. Despite the loss of one of his team members due to budget reductions, Rick and his two colleagues must continue to maintain the same safe, healthy and clean environment.  They reduce air-borne allergens by changing air filters more frequently. They routinely disinfect touch-points (high traffic areas where little fingers leave lots of germs), and tables and desktops.  The increased disinfecting has resulted in fewer illnesses and better attendance for both students and staff.
Pittsburgh, PA
At Wilkinsburg Junior-Senior High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, head custodian Wendy Fowler developed ongoing training seminars for the custodial staff to teach new techniques and the correct use of the latest cleaning products.
Her training sessions don’t stop with the custodial staff.  Ten years ago, with the help of the district’s custodial supplier, Wendy started the first hand washing demonstration in the three elementary schools. They continue today, and demonstrations now include the use of hand sanitizers, but the emphasis remains on the importance of hand washing.
Nutley, NJ
In Nutley, New Jersey, head custodian Frank Lotito works hard to the keep the 108-year old Yantacaw Elementary School clean and safe for students and staff.  Frank has modified cleaning practices to combat and curtail communicable diseases and has made changes to address the H1N1 threat, such as disinfecting hand railings and water fountains more often.
With the increase in children’s allergies, Frank takes special care in preparing the lunch tables before and between the two lunch periods. Tables are cleaned thoroughly so that students with food allergies are not at risk of coming into contact with peanut oil, for example, left from the previous lunch period.
Frederick, MD
At Frederick, Maryland’s Centerville Elementary School, lead custodian Kathleen Osborne established a “Golden Dust Pan Award” which encourages teachers and students to keep classrooms clean. They are responsible for their own space, including desks and the floor beneath them.  The “Golden Dust Pan” is hung outside the classroom that has remained the cleanest for the week.  At the end of the school year, the classroom with the highest number of awards receives an ice cream treat, while the teacher is presented with a dozen roses.
Kathleen and her crew of four also clean students’ desktops every night.  All teachers are provided with sanitizing wipes, and the use of special dust cloths has helped contain allergens. These improvements have resulted in fewer illnesses and lower absenteeism.
You can find more details about the C.L.E.A.N. Awards program and the honored custodians on SDA’s Web site.