Behind the Scenes: J-DHS Janitorial Staff

Jacob Marshall and Marcus Payne

Staff Writers

Every day the halls, cafeteria, bathrooms and classrooms are very clean thanks to the janitorial staff at Jamesville-DeWitt High School. Head Custodian John Baxter leads them, and although he has been working here for seven years, few students may know who he is.

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In November of 2011 Mr. Baxter was hired for the position of head custodian at J-DHS. Mr. Baxter was pleased with the career change because it was a promotion, it was a lot closer to his home and his kids went to JD.  “J-D is rewarding,” he said “and I learned a lot here.” Since this is the first time that Mr. Baxter has been a head custodian it is a “different type of responsibility,” he said, but he loves it.

Because Mr. Baxter was hired as the head custodian without working at J-DHS before, he had to earn the respect of his colleagues. “I had to earn my spot. With the title doesn’t come the respect, you have to earn the respect,” said Mr. Baxter. Mr. Baxter isn’t the only one in the building cleaning the school. Fellow custodian John Wirth helps him throughout the school day as they both work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Custodian Matt Baldwin works the split shift from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is also a night crew that works from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. led by Head Night Custodian Dee Warner.  

When Mr. Baxter became head custodian, Mr. Baldwin thought that it was “cool.” “It was just a new experience going from one head custodian to a different one. And it was pretty cool to experience a new policy,” said Mr. Baldwin.

Mr. Baldwin has been working at J-DHS for eight years and four with Mr. Baxter. He comes in at 11 a.m. at the start of lunch and works until 7:30 p.m. He takes care of the cafeterias and after school cleans classrooms. Mr. Baldwin always has a lot of good things to say about Mr. Baxter. “He’s a good, fair boss, and pushes me to do extra work,” said Mr. Baldwin.

Likewise, Mr. Wirth was happy to have him around. “He gets the job done,” said Mr. Wirth. Mr. Wirth has worked at J-DHS for 25 years and the last six with Mr. Baxter. Mr. Wirth says that Mr. Baxter expects lots of hard work. “Mr. Baxter is a hard, rough, and good guy, he keeps me going non-stop,” said Mr. Wirth. Mr. Wirth says that the worst thing about the job is that he has to “work alone.” He cleans by himself and basically works the majority of his job alone.

At J-DHS some of the things Mr. Baxter does around the school is clean, answer the radio, bring paper for printing to printers, and just makes sure equipment in the building is running okay. He says it's very hard to plan his day due to his job being so busy. Each school day is different depending on the season.  In the winter he has to come in at 5 a.m. and put salt on the sidewalks and snow blow them. But in the fall and spring he can come to work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Daily tasks are to clean the cafeteria, classrooms, floors, hallways or anything else that needs it.

Mr. Baxter’s career could come to an end soon depending on when his son graduates from college. Baxter’s son can graduate from Le Moyne College in May of 2020. But if his son stays at Le Moyne to pursue his MBA, Mr. Baxter might have to work for an extra two to three years.

Mr. Baxter worked in the Onondaga Central School District, Department of Public Works for the  Village of Massena, Crouse Hospital as a Housekeeping Supervisor and in the Navy before working at our school. Crouse was his first job doing strictly janitorial work. Being a Diesel mechanic and Supply Clerk in the Navy he had to do some work that janitors would do but wasn’t a janitor. While in the navy he started doing janitorial work; he would put floors down, clean his barrack, and just every once in a while he would get stuck doing something a janitor would do. He also worked as a truck driver in the DPW, but he broke his back while working there. After that he started doing a lot of other things like secretarial work, mowing lawns, painting, and just overall custodian work.