A day in the life of custodian Tony Pilla

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Sammy Keating

Happiness Is (Podington Bear) / CC BY-NC 3.0

While you may pass them in the halls or see them after school vacuuming the media center, for the most part, Wayland High School custodians function under the radar of students. However, our school would be a mess, literally and figuratively, without them.

There is usually only one custodian present during the school day to make sure things run smoothly. At night, six custodians work to make sure WHS is ready for the next school day. The six custodians are each responsible for a section of the school to make sure that the work is split up evenly among them.

Custodian Tony Pilla has worked in the Wayland school system for 12 years. After working at all three elementary schools in Wayland, he now works the night shift at WHS from 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Pilla usually punches in to work at 2 p.m. to make sure that he is not rushed. After stocking his closet, Pilla empties the trash cans, sweeps, vacuums, mops and cleans the bathrooms in the English wing of the B building.

“The English teachers really try to keep the SLC clean, and they check on it,” Pilla said. “To know that teachers actually care and help pick up, it makes a little bit of a difference, maybe, for them, but for me, it’s a big difference.”

Then, Pilla goes to the A building and cleans a set of bathrooms there. Finally, Pilla finishes up his shift by going to the fieldhouse and cleaning the track and the court, emptying the trash, and cleaning the bleachers if there was a game.

In addition to regularly cleaning the school, custodians also stay late and prep the school for various events and functions. If a custodian calls in sick or if there is a late function, the custodians could be working at the school until 2 a.m.

The new high school is being used even more often than the old school to host events.

“When I first came [to WHS], there were maybe one or two events on a weekend. Now, just this past weekend, we had five events,” Pilla said. “Every night, there’s pretty much something going on.”

While the holiday season and the end of the year are when school winds down for most students, these periods mark the busiest times of the year for the custodial department.

The custodians are present for all the concerts during the holiday season, and at the end of the year, the custodians help with concerts, prom and graduation.

As a sports fan, Pilla says that the easiest part of his job is working at the Friday night football games.

“I love it. I love the atmosphere here,” Pilla said. “I love football, so it’s what I like to do.”

The hardest part, however, is the unknown.

“If some kid comes in and gets sick in the bathroom, or if they make an extra mess, we can never prepare ourselves for that,” Pilla said.

Even though he works the night shift, Pilla has made relationships with students and teachers over the years in Wayland.

“Some of the kids, like the senior class this year, I’ve known since they were in second grade, [since] I first started working at Claypit. So it’s kind of weird seeing them graduate because I’ve known them for so long,” Pilla said.

As close as they are to the students and faculty, the custodians are a tight knit group as well.

“The group of guys that we have here are so great. During the summertime, we always have a cookout or something on a Friday. Just one day we could kick back and work hard for the morning and then eat lunch, clean up and cruise through the day,” Pilla said.

Once the school year ends, students and teachers will have a break from WHS, but the custodial department will still be hard at work.

All seven custodians report to work at 6 a.m. during the summer and work until 2:30 p.m. Pilla, who lives in Shrewsbury, must wake up at 4:30 a.m. to be at work at 6 a.m., and Ed Konopka, the head of the custodial department who lives in Douglas, most wake up at 3 a.m. to reach WHS on time.

“Our days start pretty early. It takes us a solid two weeks to get used to waking up that early from coming in at 2:30 p.m. during the school year to all of a sudden waking up at 4:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. during the summer. But once you get used to it, it’s nice getting out at 2:30 p.m. during the summer because you still have the rest of the day [free],” Pilla said.

Next month, Pilla will be walking with the class of 2013 at graduation as a class marshall.

“I was surprised. I didn’t even walk in my own graduation, so it’ll feel weird being in a cap and gown again, but I’m excited and honored to be asked,” Pilla said.

For Pilla, helping others is an important part of his job.

“I try to be a very easygoing guy,” Pilla said. “If someone needs something, even if I can’t help them, I always try to find a way to help them.”