NATIONAL CUSTODIAL WORKER’S DAY: Monday, Oct. 2
Ask Michael Pleze to state the hardest, most challenging part of his job as a custodian at Usher-Collier Elementary School and he’ll hesitate. Then, just when he is about to give you an answer, he’ll hesitate again.
That’s because he enjoys and takes pride in all aspects of his work, something he has been doing for the past 21 years – from 7:30 a.m., sometimes earlier if need be, to 4 p.m. or later.
“I’m blessed to have this job,” Pleze said. “I just try to come to work every day and do a good job. Just do my best.” His attitude is representative of the 161 full-time and part-time custodians employed by Atlanta Public Schools.
“He is in perpetual motion,” Usher-Collier Principal Jerry Parker said of Pleze. “He is dedicated and self-motivated. He does things before you can even ask him, and he puts children first. He is the best I have ever seen at what he does.”
Pleze learned his craft and his working philosophy from his father, Jesse Pleze, who worked for 40 years as a custodian in APS in several different schools, including Morris Brandon Elementary and South Atlanta High School, where he retired in 2006. He passed away last year, but Michael Pleze said his father’s words of advice continue to guide him.
“He told me to always be on time, and to do what they ask you to do,” said Pleze, a 1994 graduate of Douglass High School. “I come to work on time, with my shirt tucked in, ready to do a good job every day.”
Pleze said he starts the day cleaning every doorknob and hand rail in the school, along with every window that needs cleaning.
“You have to make sure you disinfect the doorknobs to cut down on the germs,” Pleze said. “And the windows, especially the ones at the front of the school, have to stay clean. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the building.”
Next, Pleze cleans all 10 of the bathrooms in the building for the first time. He revisits all 10 at least two to three times each day. “It’s very important,” he said, “to make sure they are clean for the kids. You have to keep moving in this job. You can’t just go sit in the cafeteria all day.”
After lunch, Pleze will clean the cafeteria and then go out and inspect the outside of the building for trash, debris or anything else that is out of place. And he is always ready to assist teachers with heavy boxes or cleaning up messes in their classrooms. Keeping the teachers happy is another one of Pleze’s goals.
“I want to make sure I cater to the staff, make sure everything is right for them,” Pleze said. “That’s very important to me.”
Though he loves his job, Pleze said he will most likely call it a career nine years from now when he is eligible for retirement. He’ll spend more time with his wife, take longer walks to keep his Type II diabetes in check and serve at his church, Foundation Baptist Church, pastored by his uncle.
But until then, Pleze said he’ll continue to work under the same creed he now imparts to his younger peers who are just starting out.
“Come to work on time every day. Make sure you get along with the staff and do what they ask you to do,” Pleze said. “Be faithful to the job. Take pride in what you do and always do your best.”