Archive for Sunday, July 23, 2006

Southwest custodian wants to make a difference for kids

July 23, 2006


Kenneth Tucker, 55, is on a mission every day at Southwest Junior High School.

The school's head custodian laughs, jokes and talks with the students throughout the day as he tries to help guide them through their junior high years.

Nearly 10 years ago, Tucker and his wife, Donis, lost their 25-year-old son, Domingo, after a bout with depression.

"That's why I try to change the lives of kids," Tucker said. "They are very important, and if I've changed one in the entire time I'm here, my entire time will be successful. And that's what I believe: Kids first."

Tucker moved to Lawrence in 1999 from Arizona, and he soon found a job at the school he has learned to love.

You and your wife moved here in 1999 so your wife could attend KU. How did you end up at Southwest Junior High?

When I came to Lawrence, the first guy I met was working for the school district. He helped me unload the truck. He said, "Do you have a job?" I said no. He said, "We'll go apply at the school district."

Kenneth Tucker takes a break from working on the floor of the music room at Southwest Junior High School. Tucker is the school's head custodian.

Kenneth Tucker takes a break from working on the floor of the music room at Southwest Junior High School. Tucker is the school's head custodian.

I had worked for two years as a custodian at Parker (Ariz.) High School. I also was working for Colorado River Indian Tribes.

They asked me if I would like to try working at another school, and I said no. I like it where I'm at.

What is a day like for you and your three-person staff?

My staff comes to work at 2:30 in the afternoon, and they clean all of the classrooms at night. Myself, I come in early in the morning. I open up the building, clean the locker rooms, clean the breakfast tables for breakfast.

After they are finished with breakfast, I take care of whatever needs to be done. I set up for lunch.

At lunchtime, I work in the cafeteria all through lunch taking up lunch trays, cleaning up spills or whatever else may come up. After lunch is over, I clean the cafeteria and serving area.

Southwest Junior High custodian

Kenneth Tucker, head custodian at Southwest Junior High School, says he does it for the students. Enlarge video

In the summertime, we literally go from one end of building to the other, cleaning from floor to ceiling, wall to wall.

Why do you like to work at Southwest Junior High so much?

I like it because you can watch the students grow. When they come in here, some of them are little guys, and some of them are grown up quite a bit. You get to watch them mature as people before they leave here. To me it's really rewarding to see that.

My favorite thing is the kids. That's why I'm here. I hope I've reached a child that needs some good guidance in his life, and I make a change in his life.

Are you a "neat freak" because you are a custodian?

With the size of the building we have, we do the very best we can. Some days we're not able to do so much because of other activities. Or someone may be sick, so you have to fill in, step back and help the others. You have to cut a few corners when you are short-staffed. We do try to keep it as clean as possible.

The biggest day-to-day challenge is the unexpected spills, or whatever. We have to experience sick kids. The biggest challenge is to just try to stay ahead of the game and not make it overwhelming, and make it fun.

What is one thing you would like to see changed about Lawrence?

I'd really like to see the city put in a skateboard park in the southwest part of town. They have one at Centennial Park; it's a long ways for the kids to go to.

Kenneth Tucker

Age: 55 Job: Head custodian, Southwest Junior High School Family: Wife, Donis, married 35 years; daughter, Keri, Mexico, Mo.; son, Domingo, died in 1996. Moved to Lawrence: 1999. Hobbies: Hunting and fishing at Clinton Lake. Why he enjoys his work: "I take a little pride in my job. I try to make it the best that I can for whoever walks in the building - not just the students."


hockmano 11 years, 11 months ago

Mr Tucker you must be a good guy.You guys really dont' get enough credit, or PAY for what you do. I used to work at freestate a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it.I finally left to go to school because I could not survive on the pay they gave me and I did not like the way the district deals with complaints about employees. Not to mention the lead custodian(which is still there) treats everyone like crap off the bottom of her shoe!We were always short staffed so I know you guys do alot of extra work for minimal money. Good Job Mr. Tucker!

John Hunter 11 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Tucker, thank you for all that you and your staff do at Southwest. In the five years that we attended meetings and watched Evan and Paige in concerts and plays I don't think that Leslie and I ever noticed anything out of place at the school. You and all the other great folks at Southwest share these two traits: You love your work and you love the kids. We thank you.

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