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Schools rated 'superior' for cleanliness, safety


Call it an honor roll for custodians.

Three Carroll County schools have earned "superior" ratings from state inspectors for buildings that are clean, safe and strong. Only eight schools in Maryland achieved that rating this year.

Carroll's are Piney Ridge and Manchester elementary schools, and Carroll Springs School.

At the State House yesterday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening greeted the schools' building supervisors, who learned of their honor in January.

Robert Conaway, the county school system's supervisor of maintenance, and two of the principals also attended the reception.

"This is a reflection of the dedication that some of the unsung heroes in the school system have," said Vernon Smith, Carroll schools' director of support services. "It's that transparent level of support that's there, that a lot of people assume happens. It requires a great deal of work by a lot of people. It doesn't happen automatically."

The lauded building supervisors are Homer Livesay of Piney Ridge, Judy Owings of Manchester Elementary and Jerry Spratt of Carroll Springs.

Each year, state inspectors select about 100 schools a year to visit.

Five Carroll schools were among that group this year. Aside from the three "superior" ones, Westminster West Middle and North Carroll Middle schools achieved a rating of "good," the second highest.

Robin Farinholt, principal at Carroll Springs, the county's only school specifically for disabled students, said she remembers the day the inspector spent there. It was, indeed, a whole day.

"He combed the building," she said. "He looked at preventive maintenance, the overall construction of the building, cleanliness and safety factors. He was on the roof; he was in the boiler room; he was in the classroom."

"We're talking about a lot more than dusting and mopping the floors," Mr. Smith said.

"The bottom line is, I was just doing my job," Ms. Owings said. "I take a lot of pride in what I do. The recognition is just icing on the cake."

The award also was gratifying to Ms. Owings, a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, although about one-third of the school building supervisors in Carroll are women.

Ms. Owings started working in schools as a custodian 10 years ago while she studied to earn her boiler's license.

She became a supervisor five years ago.

At the governor's reception yesterday, she said, she was hoping see how many of the other honorees were women.

"It was hard to distinguish today who was a building supervisor and who was a principal, because everyone was dressed up," she said.

"Homer and I have talked about how this came about," said Piney Ridge Principal Gloria Horneff, who accompanied Mr. Livesay. "He feels very strongly the staff deserves a lot of the credit. He's very modest. He's just dedicated to his job. Being a new building, he wants it to stay looking like new."

Mr. Spratt is president of the local custodians' union, Local 2741 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

He noted that he and Ms. Owings are officers of the local and Mr. Livesay is a member.

"You have a bargaining unit that people think do [nothing but] fight for rights and causes, and here we are working hand in hand with management, providing the same quality-type thing," Mr. Spratt said.

"Ever since I became president two years ago, one of the things we've been fighting for is equal recognition of staff achievements by my bargaining unit," he said.

The union also represents maintenance workers and bus drivers.

Mr. Smith said he is highlighting more achievements by the custodial and maintenance staff in the employee newsletter.

"It's our intention to make a big to-do about this at the [School] Board meeting" April 12 or May 10, Mr. Smith said. "There's always so much attention made to the other departments."

Mr. Spratt said that, in each building, the faculty and students also deserve recognition.

"All we are is just a spoke on a wheel," he said.

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