Orig. Post May 27, 2015 by Patrick McKenna, Missourian | Re-Post June 9, 2015
COLUMBIA — On the last day of class at Hickman High School, teachers dump their old papers and students clear their lockers of whatever had festered there since August. Then everyone leaves — everyone, that is, except Alan Beeler and his team of custodians.
It’s not Beeler’s first last day of school; he has a system. Walkie-talkie in hand, he roams the crowded hallways, checking on the overflowing recycling bins, marshaling the other custodians and keeping an eye out for last-minute pranks. All this is the easy part, he said. “I could flood your ears with the workload we’ve got the next few weeks.”
For the 12 custodians at Hickman, summer is a season of deep cleaning. By the beginning of the next school year, they will have cleaned every room in the building “from ceiling to floor without leaving a single speck behind,” Beeler said.
The first thing they do to a room is remove everything. If the floor is carpet, they will shampoo it; if it’s tile, they’ll scrub it and re-coat it with wax or floor finish. Meanwhile, they keep up their daily routine of overseeing the hallways and bathrooms. All summer school classes at Hickman meet on the first floor, so custodians can focus on the second floor until those classes end July 2.
It’s a lot of work, but Beeler — the self-described “organizer of this madness” — has developed a system for this, too: a compendium of checklists and schedules mixed with constant communication with his other custodians.
“Alan is extremely organized,” said Leslie Lewis, another custodian at Hickman. “If you need anything, supplies-wise, he’ll have it. With scheduling, he’s very detailed, which makes everything easier on his staff. And, he makes sure to recycle everything — and I mean everything, not just paper left around.”
Beeler is originally from Fremont, Michigan, and moved to Columbia in July 1979. He worked in management at a few factories before he got into custodial work. He worked as a custodian at the Columbia Public Schools Administrative Building until December 2012, when he was promoted to custodial supervisor for Hickman.
Beeler said being a custodian was never a dream of his. Nevertheless, he treats his job with the seriousness of any other professional manager, meticulously planning as much as he can while still remaining ready for any unexpected “clean up on aisle three, if you know what I mean,” Beeler said, chuckling.
“My philosophy has always been to be the best at what I’m doing,” Beeler said. “If I’m sweeping floors or taking out trash, I’m still going to do it the best way I can. My staff has gotten into this system and that’s really why Hickman stays so clean.”
J.D. Coffman, an assistant principal at Hickman in charge of athletics and activities, said Beeler and his team undertake a huge job, and they’re great at it.
“It really does feel like a family here,” Beeler said.