Custodian says lessons learned on the job have been valuable

by Marianne Morf
    Sterling Washburn has spent a lot of time in school.  And he’s learned quite a bit.
    “I’ve learned you ‘never say never’ and ‘things don’t just happen,’” said Sterling, seated at a lunch table in the gym turned lunchroom at Sunset School.  Ironically, Sunset is where he started his career as a school

custodian 28 years ago.  In years to follow, he moved to fill needs at the middle school, high school and Clear Creek.  Now, with much of the middle school under construction, he’s back at Sunset with this years’ sixth grade class.
    “I remember being a student in (Clear Lake) high school and seeing the janitor sweeping up and thinking that was a lowly job-- something I’d never do,” said Sterling. 
    A few years later, Sterling was employed as a carpenter for the Andersen Company and although based in Clear Lake, he was usually working out of town five days a week. 
    “It was hard to be away from my kids and wife.  So when my parents told me about a job opening at the school, I considered it.  I was thrilled when I got the job, but I was bothered a bit.  I just never saw myself as the janitor I remembered when I was in high school.”
    Never say never.  Things don’t just happen.
    His hesitation about the job was quickly put to rest when he began working along side the young students at Sunset.
    “The kids get attached and make the job very special,” said Sterling.  “It made me feel like I had a purpose being there-- and it still does.”
    Sterling cut his custodial teeth under the leadership of Duane Hahn and today Kelly McLaughlin oversees building maintenance.  Armand Oetken was his principal at Sunset back in 1983 and Richard Lashier was district superintendent.  All were extremely supportive of his work. 
    “Mr. Oetken really helped me a lot at first.  I remember, he’d always ask, ‘How goes the battle?”
    And there were some battles, the biggest being learning about boiler systems like the one at Sunset School.  Today, Sterling can control heating and cooling systems at all the schools from a computer.
    “It’s quite a change, thanks to our IT Department,” he says.  Other changes have come in the products and manner used to clean and maintain school - Read More Via e-Edition

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