Custodians are school’s unsung heroes


Jake Gerbracht

Custodian Ricky Galvao mops the commons floors after lunch. He’s one of 13 custodians who work at Cal High.

They’re not seen frequently, and when they are, they’re typically overlooked. They are the unsung heroes of Cal High: the custodians.

And they are led by one man: Roberto Manrique.

Manrique has worked at Cal since April 2007. He and his night crew spend eight to 10 hours a day preparing the school so it looks as nice as it does every morning when  students and staff arrive on campus for another day of school.

“[There are] a lot of kids here doing practice, sports, activities, and meetings,” Manrique said. “So it is pretty busy at night in addition to the cleaning.” 

There are only three custodians who work during the day, and one of them is Ricky Galvao.

Galvao has worked at Cal since 2012 and arrives at 6 a.m. every morning to unlock all of the school’s main entryways, turn on all the lights, and set up the commons. 

Galvao prepares and cleans the school, including the parking lot, every day until 1 p.m., when two more custodians come take over the cleaning duties. 

When Manrique arrives for his shift in the afternoon, he checks the school calendar and ensures every school event or activity, such as Fright Fest and homecoming, has what it needs to run smoothly. 

He then assigns the other custodians to their buildings and projects for their daily duties.

Most of the night custodians arrive on campus around 3 p.m. They have 15-minute to half hour meetings everyday, where they discuss daily work that needs to be done, joke around and bond as a team. 

Nima Pendar
Head custodian Roberto Manrique buffs the commons floor. Manrique has been working at Cal High since 2007.

Many students don’t realize how much work is required to clean up after as many as 2,885 students.

But the school and district certainly understand their important role on campus. In fact, Manrique was selected as one of the district’s Classified Employees of the Year in 2012. He also was also honored earlier this year as Cal’s Shining Star by the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation. 

“Our custodians obviously don’t get enough recognition,” junior Kelly Kyutoku said. “No one really thinks about the work they do to keep our school looking the way it is.”

It is fair to say that Cal’s campus is very large, especially with 12 different buildings and the outdoor areas, such as the quad and parking lot to maintain. 

It takes a lot of work to clean these buildings, as well as assist in school activities. 

Many students think Cal has a pretty dirty campus. What they don’t realize is that the custodians try to clean the entire school every night, but new messes are inevitably made by students each day.

“Overall, the custodians do a great job cleaning up,” sophomore Apara Jella said. 

Aside from literal trash, students have also been seen spitting on floors and throwing junk inside empty lockers. 

“We don’t give [the custodians] enough credit for cleaning up our mess,” senior Liana Wong said. 

Since trash and filth is not uncommon around Cal, people have simply learned to deal with it. 

“I’ve just become accustomed to it,” Wong said. “[It’s] a major problem, because something has to be done about it.”

Fortunately, Manrique thinks the campus is improving and students are beginning to pick up their trash. But he’d like students to know more about recycling. 

“The recycling bins in the main building are 50/50, garbage and recycling,” Manrique said. 

Above all the trash and food scattered around campus, Manrique says the worst mess his crew has had to deal with is  cruel vandalism, which often includes racial slurs, scrawled in the school bathrooms. 

Unfortunately, it happens more than students realize, but the hardworking custodians always get rid of the harsh words quickly. Still, the vandalism is Manrique’s least favorite part of the job. 

Even with all the messes created by students, the custodians still love them. 

“My favorite part of the job is seeing the kids,” Galvao said.

But contrary to many students’ beliefs, the custodians do more than simply clean the school. 

Sure, they work tirelessly to ensure that Cal is in the best condition for students when they arrive in the morning. But without the custodians, many would find that they do not have all the supplies they need for various events or access to certain buildings.

One of Manrique’s favorite stories is the time before a Mr. Cali show, Cal’s annual male pageant, when Manrique sent newly-hired custodian Jose Flores to be in charge of the theatre. 

At the time, Flores had not worked at Cal for very long, so he wasn’t yet familiar with campus events.

When students arrived to prepare for the show, Flores would not let any of them in the theater until “Mr. Cali” arrived, thinking that “Mr. Cali” was the teacher in charge. 

To this day, Manrique and Flores still laugh about this rookie mistake.

Although their jobs are tough, the custodians enjoy the time they spend at Cal, especially the time they spend together as a team. 

“[The other custodians] make me want to go to work everyday,” Galvao said. “Manrique is not just a good boss, he’s also my friend.”