Editorial: A salute to support staff

During American Education Week, many students thank their teachers either verbally or through small tokens of appreciation. A frequently forgotten group that helps school run smoothly is the support staff, which consists of custodians, cafeteria workers, and aides to name a few. And it is to that dedicated group of professionals that we say “thank you”.

Every school has them, although probably fewer than several years ago, as their jobs can be the first to go under the budgetary chopping block. In fact, according to data extrapolated from obnoxiously long and convoluted spreadsheets downloaded from State Department of Education's website, there has been a 5.5% decrease in the number of support staff employed in Lancaster County’s public schools in the last three years, a rather disturbing statistic considering the challenges facing today’s public schools. This decrease leaves more work for the remainder of the support staff, as there is certainly not a 5.5% decrease in the amount of support schools need.

In our perusal of the salaries for non-teaching positions in School Board minutes, it becomes clear that the committed men and women who comprise school support staffs are not in it for the money, or at least not as a primary component, as there are undoubtedly places of employment at which they could earn similar or better wages without, to put it bluntly, having to deal with incorrigible, bothersome, or aggravating students (which admittedly, we can be).

Support staffs receive little accolade for their excellent work in maintaining smooth function in our schools; many, in fact, are anonymous. Even a beloved evening custodian at L-S is known to us only as “Tim”. That anonymity, however, should not detract from their level of appreciation.

We don't always agree with Rev. Jesse Jackson, however we do in regards to the importance of support staff. He said, “Children need all school workers. A person is not 'just' a janitor, not 'just' a custodian. Janitors can see children when [teachers] don't see them, and bus drivers recognize that children who are disruptive on the bus are likely to be disorderly in the classroom. They're partners in education. We need each other to make this work.” 

Without a strong support staff, there is no way US News & World Report would have ranked Lampeter-Strasburg near the top of all Pennsylvania high schools. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child; for schools, it takes an interdisciplinary team of dedicated professionals ranging from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to teaching assistants to janitors to library aides to secretaries to teachers to guidance counselors to administrators in order to properly educate a student.

Therefore, we call upon our fellow students thank a member of the L-S High School’s support staff. Maybe it is an office secretary who has enough institutional memory to run the school single-handedly, perhaps it is a teaching assistant whose dedication to fostering an atmosphere of comprehension is exceeded only by his or her dry humor. Consider a custodian whom you constantly see cleaning up someone else’s mess in an effort to keep the school looking as clean as possible, or a cafeteria worker who embodies a contagious smile that inevitably boosts student morale. Think of bus drivers, who must be sufficiently alert to drive a several-ton piece of machinery filled with students by 6:00 AM, a time at which many are still asleep.

No matter whom you thank, it will be a gratifying experience for both you and the person, and maybe you can brighten their day as they brighten yours. To the support staff of Lampeter-Strasburg School District, we issue a hearty, "Thank you!"

This opinion piece represents the collective opinion of the LSNews.org editorial board. It was written by editor-in-chief Benjamin Pontz, and based upon a piece he wrote for LNP in May of 2014. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District, its administration, or the newspaper's faculty advisor. Questions or concerns can be directed to lspioneernews@gmail.com.

--THE EDITORIAL BOARD (BP)

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