By Dr. Brian Maher, Superintendent
April 2019

Many of us have heard the phrase “Real heroes don’t wear capes.” If you consider that phrase while walking through any one of our schools, you know this to be the absolute truth. Real heroes in the Sioux Falls School District wear custodial uniforms, aprons in the kitchen, and certainly more than one “hat” if their job title is education assistant or clerical!

Every school day, it takes more than 3,500 employees to welcome the 24,000 students and their parents who count on us to deliver a high-quality education. While about 1,900 of those employees are classroom teachers, the other 2,600 fill important support roles. These are the unsung heroes who make our schools safe, warm, and welcoming learning environments where our students can do their best. These support people are the quiet doers who take on the necessary tasks without fanfare. They build relationships with students. Offer a smile at just the right time. Give fist bumps and high-fives.

While most of us notice freshly waxed hallways, emptied garbage cans, and neatly stacked chairs in the cafeteria, the job of a custodian is so much more. They must be handy men/women, knowing how to fix a jammed towel dispenser in the bathroom one minute, sharpening a blade on a mower the next, just before trouble-shooting the cause of short in a microphone cord.

Child nutrition staff members aren’t your basic kitchen help. Last month, they gathered to do some taste-testing in search of new foods their young customers might enjoy. Strict federal guidelines on protein, whole grains, and sugar levels need to be “weighed” when designing the breakfast and lunch menus. These staff are meticulous and take their role in fueling students with healthy, yet good-tasting foods, very seriously.

Education assistants support students and teachers both in and out of the classroom. In some cases, EAs are personal assistants for students who have physical needs. In some cases, they are an extra set of hands in a large classroom. They re-shelve books in the library. They keep the lines flowing, the talking at a “dull roar,” and the tables clean between shifts in the lunchroom.

And, if you need the answer to almost any question, everyone knows you go to the office for help! In addition to answering phones, taking lunch count, depositing money from book orders, creating a newsletter, ordering supplies, checking-in visitors, fetching ice packs for recess mishaps, our clerical are also trained to check blood sugar levels and administer medication to students with those needs.

If you’re not already exhausted by just reading about why these support people are so critical to our mission “to educate and prepare each student to succeed in a changing world,” spend a little time taking note of their work the next time you are at school. We think you will agree that “real heroes don’t wear capes!”