by Terry Rogers
In December, Ken Reynolds, Chief Custodian at Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center, received the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) Education Support Professional of the Year. The award recognizes the behind-the-scenes staff at Delaware schools.
“I think I was supposed to be anonymous, but I was told I was nominated by the mother of two girls who had moved here recently,” Reynolds said. “I would greet them each day when they came into school, try to smile and be friendly, talk to them and help them get a good start to their day. You have to remember, that there are a hundred cars each day coming into Morris to drop off kids. I just try to talk to each child and parent every morning so they feel welcome. I guess the mom felt like I was going above and beyond what I had to do in making her girls feel welcome, so she nominated me.”
Reynolds began working at the Milford School District in 1997, starting out as a night custodian. He began working at Lulu M. Ross Elementary School under Gary Rogers and, when Rogers retired, Reynolds was promoted to Chief Custodian at Ross. When the opportunity to transfer to Morris came available, Reynolds took the job as Chief Custodian there.
“The best part about my job is my crossing guard duties, helping the kids out of the car and into school each day,” Reynolds said. “The worse the weather is, the more I like it. Even in the driving rain and especially snow. The kids are so excited when it is snowing that it rubs off on you. You get to know the parents, I feel like I know them personally. You notice when someone is not there and I always ask if they were sick or what happened that they were not in school. It just makes my day to see the kids.”
Although Reynolds enjoys snow as it falls, he does not enjoy the fact that one of his jobs is snow removal. When school is delayed or closed, Reynolds joked that his wife, Amanda, who is a financial secretary at Milford Central Academy, is happy because she often gets to stay home. He, however, has to come in and make sure the parking lots and sidewalks are clear, keeping the outside of the schools safe, something that is “a lot of extra work.”
In addition to his wife, Reynolds has three other family members working at Milford School District. His son, Brad, works with him at Morris, his son, Brian, works in the Child Nutrition Department and his daughter, Emily Roche, is a teacher. He joked that if anything happened to Milford School District, the Reynolds’ family would be in big trouble.
“Kenny is awesome,” Glen Stevenson, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, said. “He is very reliable, works very well with everyone and does a great job leading his group making sure Morris is clean and ready to go each day.”
Reynolds sees what he does each day as a vital part of keeping the school operational. He explained that anyone who enters the custodian field needs to be prepared for anything and they need to be patient as well as kind to others.
“You don’t know what these kids are dealing with at home,” Reynolds said. “It is a different world out there. You have to be flexible and take things in stride. My son is out now on maternity leave so we have had to shuffle guys around to cover him. Just this morning, one of my guys called in and said he had pink eye, something that happens when you work with kids all day. That mean another adjustment to make sure all the areas were covered. I had to jump from Plan B to Plan D in just a few minutes.”
The biggest changes Reynolds has seen in his 22 years with the district is enrollment growth, something he notices increasing each year. He also noted that changes in technology have significantly changed his duties.
“All our correspondence now is either email or text,” Reynolds said. “Our HVAC is controlled by computer so I can go in and see what each classroom has going on. Unfortunately, we have security systems like door locks and cameras designed to keep the kids and staff safe. In today’s times, it is critical that these things operate properly.”
As part of the recognition from the DSEA, Reynolds received tickets to University of Delaware basketball games as well as two $50 gift cards, one to Klondike Kate’s and another to the Stone Balloon/Buffalo Wild Wings in New Castle County.
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