They’re being called “innovators” and the “front line of defense in stopping germs.”  These are the custodians from five schools across America honored with the third annual C.L.E.A.N. Awards, which recognize the contributions that custodians make to public health in their schools, communities, and their profession.
The National C.L.E.A.N. (Custodial Leaders for Environmental Awareness Nationwide) Award is a joint initiative of the American Cleaning Institute (ACI – formerly The Soap and Detergent Association), the National Education Association (NEA), and NEA’s Health Information Network (HIN).
“This award program recognizes the contributions that custodians make every day to improving public health and hygiene in our schools,” said Nancy Bock, ACI vice president of Consumer Education.
“School custodians are responsible for more than just sweeping the floors, cleaning lunch rooms, and turning off the lights at the end of the day,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president. “These unsung heroes contribute to student learning by creating a safe, clean, and healthy environment for students every day, an important role in helping to create great public schools for every student.  NEA is proud to co-sponsor the 2011 C.L.E.A.N. Awards in partnership with the NEA Health Information Network and the American Cleaning Institute.”
2011 Top Recipient: Georgia’s Barry Crocker
The 2011 Top Award Recipient is Barry Crocker, a custodian at Nicholson Elementary School in Marietta, Ga.  Crocker, who has been at the school for 20 years, is known as the school’s in-house safety expert.  His cleaning practices are so effective that he’s been called on by the Cobb County School District to assist and retrain custodians in other schools.
To help keep infectious illness to a minimum, Crocker, his staff, and the students he’s trained as lunchroom monitors clean lunch tables, wipe the seats, and sweep the floor every time a class leaves the school lunch room so that it’s spotless and ready for the next class.
“The C.L.E.A.N. Award continues to place a spotlight on the importance of cleaning for health first and appearance second,” said Crocker.  “Custodial professionals need to continue to lead the cleaning-for-health movement.”  
As the top recipient of 2011 C.L.E.A.N. Award, Crocker received a $5,000 cash award.
North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan Custodians Also Honored
Custodians from across the United States were honored as C.L.E.A.N. Award runners-up for their professional efforts in keeping their schools clean.
Fayetteville, N.C.: Carol Stubbs has been the head custodian at Anne Chesnutt Year-Round Middle School in Fayetteville since 2003 and in the profession for more than 17 years.
Stubbs and her team work tirelessly to minimize germs at Anne Chesnutt by equipping every room with hand sanitizers, diligently cleaning doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces, encouraging everyone to wash their hands regularly, and making cleaning supplies available to classrooms.
“I realize that we, the custodial staff, are on the front line of defense in stopping germs from spreading in the building,” she says.  During Stubbs’ time at the middle school, the number of student sick days has dropped, the rate of recycling has climbed, and parents and teachers continually remark on how clean and orderly the school is.
Portage, Mich.:  In the hallways of Central Elementary School, groups of students wielding sticks with tennis balls attached to the ends make their way across the floor. They're not playing an improvised game of floor hockey. They're part of head custodian Steve Verburg's “Scruff Patrol”, teams of students who rub away black scruff marks left behind by sneakers and boots on the floors.
All the students look up to Verburg and work hard to earn the privilege to help him keep the school clean. Under his supervision, they sweep, mop, vacuum, clean up the busy lunch room, and rake leaves on the school grounds.
A custodian for 23 years in Portage, Verburg makes health and safety a priority:  he’s installed hand sanitizers in every room throughout the building and placed carpet runners in the hallways and entrances so students and staff won’t slip on wet floors on rainy or snowy days.
Orange Beach, Ala.: Virginia Wilson, custodian at Orange Beach Elementary School, is not only responsible for maintaining the elementary school building, but she also cleans the school’s three-year-old science and nature center, Sea, Sand, & Stars, where Gulf marine life is the main attraction. With so many people and sea creatures using the facility, maintaining a healthy, hygienic environment tops Wilson’s list of priorities.
Her first order of business is addressing hand hygiene. Disinfecting soap, hand sanitizers, and tissues are well distributed throughout the marine life laboratory, and she wipes down each of the 18 door handles daily. The science center also houses a planetarium and a computer technology room with 30 stations. Virginia works to make sure head rests and headphones are continually protected from bacteria and unwanted pests, like lice.
Durango, Colo.:  Diane Lashinsky, the principal of Durango High School, expresses enormous pride in the school’s custodial staff. “We have the most involved group of custodians I’ve ever encountered. Each of these dedicated staff members has an unmatched work ethic, going above and beyond the customary custodial job duties on a daily basis,” said Lashinsky.
The custodial team of Rich Warfield, Greg Butler, Rick Duran, and Chris Gregory has more than 44 years of experience combined.  They clean for the health of the entire school community. In fact, their healthy cleaning practices are so effective that during the H1N1 threat of 2009, a local news station reported on health standards and the custodial staff’s work to combat the flu.
The team uses disinfectant cloths to clean cafeteria tables, they change ceiling tiles and fix moisture problems to prevent mold, and they clean air filters regularly to prevent poor indoor environmental quality and fire hazards. Safety, they say, is their No. 1 priority at the school.
You can find more details about the C.L.E.A.N. Awards program and the honored custodians on at or