Working the night shift: Lynbrook’s invaluable custodians

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Working the night shift: Lynbrook’s invaluable custodians

Aileen Xue

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From 3:00 to 11:30 p.m., a group of Lynbrook staff is hard at work, meticulously cleaning and getting school facilities ready for students the next day. While they are rarely recognized for their invaluable contributions to the school, custodians Oscar Capristo, Ronald Choi, Manuel Cortez, Teferi Habte and Federico Mendez dedicate themselves to keeping Lynbrook clean and comfortable for all students and staff.

On a typical day, the custodians first meet at the custodial office located by the locker rooms to discuss the tasks that need to be completed. Their daily duties include emptying all trash cans, vacuuming carpets, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping down all surfaces in classrooms and restrooms, cleaning windows and mirrors, replacing broken equipment, refilling materials in classrooms, restocking toilet paper and soap dispensers in restrooms and ensuring that all doors are locked at the end of the day.

Each custodian tackles a specific area of the school: Capristo is responsible for the field house, Voyager classrooms, 600-wing and one of the restrooms; Choi cleans the 200-wing, 300-wing and 400-wing; Mendez tackles the main office, girls locker room, 70-wing, 100-wing and 0-wing; Habte tidies the library and three of the restrooms; and Cortez takes on the gym, boys locker room and 500-wing.

As the senior custodian since January 2017, Capristo oversees the work of the four other custodians. He is also responsible for training substitute custodians and carrying a work phone with him, helping whoever calls him with their request, whether that be bringing out the bleachers in the gym during games or helping teachers bring additional tables or chairs to their classrooms.

Capristo was born in San Jose and attended Independence High School, where he worked as a custodian for two years before coming to Lynbrook. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1970s and worked tirelessly to provide for him, his two brothers and his sister.

“My dad worked very long hours to ensure we had what we needed so that we could focus on school,” Capristo said. “With his support, we were able to maintain our academics. If I could go back and change the decisions I made [in my junior year of high school], knowing what I know now, I would have definitely gone down a different path and excelled more in school.”

In his free time, Capristo is very active. On weekends, he enjoys spending time outdoors and partaking in activities such as camping and fishing. He is also an avid supporter of local sports teams such as the San Jose Sharks, Golden State Warriors, Oakland A’s and the San Francisco 49ers. He enjoys attending football games the most and is a proud 49ers season ticket owner.  

Choi has worked at Lynbrook for eight years, which is the longest out of the five current custodians.

“There is honestly nothing too difficult about my job,” Choi said. “Everything is relatively easy to sort out since all of us custodians work together.”

He immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1983 and started working as the supervisor of a committee in Palo Alto. He retired from that job last year to spend more time with his family, in particular with his grandson, who currently attends Wilcox High School, and his daughter and son, both of whom are doctors.

On the other hand, Habte worked as a custodian at NASA in Mountain View for more than 20 years before coming to Lynbrook almost three years ago. He finds that many of the tasks he does at Lynbrook are similar to his duties at NASA. Habte is especially grateful for the friendships he has made and supportive work environment.

“At Lynbrook, we have all the tools and whatever else we may need,” Habte said. “We are always provided with whatever we ask for without hesitation.”

Habte holds himself to a high standard and is only satisfied when the job he does is perfect. When he is not working, Habte enjoys visiting family and friends, hiking and running.

Before coming to Lynbrook approximately three years ago, Mendez worked at Stanford Hospital for more than 15 years as a nurse assistant, assisting patients with their daily tasks, such as eating and showering. Hoping to work in closer to his home, Mendez applied for an open custodian position at Lynbrook and has worked here ever since.

“This job is a great fit for me,” Mendez said. “I really enjoy the work I do here, and on top of that, I get to interact with so many awesome kids.”

Outside of his job, Mendez enjoys spending time with his children, often taking them to the park. Aged five, seven and thirteen, his three children attend Bishop Elementary School, Columbia Middle School and Fremont High School respectively.  

Through his job, Mendez has learned about teamwork and communication.

“Working as a team is better than working by yourself,” Mendez said. “The day goes by a lot faster and is much better. “

As the custodians have worked together, they have developed a camaraderie. The five of them often eat together during their breaks, chatting about the events that are going on in their lives.

“We are more than just a team,” Choi said. “We are brothers. We often text each other, and I often bring in some food for everyone.”

Capristo also shares Choi’s sentiments about their brotherhood.

“[All the custodians] are all hard working individuals with great personalities and a great sense of humor,” said Capristo. “I always make sure to remind them of how much I appreciate their hard work and dedication and how it makes our team so successful.”

In reflecting on their interactions with those at Lynbrook, all of the custodians also agree on the amicable nature of the students at the school.

“They are some of the best kids I’ve ever met,” Habte said. “They are nice, responsible and very polite. I feel like I am at home. I am so glad to work at Lynbrook.”

Although the night custodians do the majority of their work behind the scenes, their contributions to Lynbrook are not underappreciated. When students walk into classes every day, they are greeted with spotless classrooms thanks to these hard-working members of the school’s staff. Their hard work and effort are what keep Lynbrook so comfortable for everyone in the community.