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A Day in the Boots of the Grounds Crew

Updated: Mar 19, 2018

I reported to work at 5:45 am on the first Monday of daylight saving time. It was cold and dark. I would be working with my teammate Isaac. His regular partner Jaime, won a day off at our Welcome Back event in August where I promised the winner I would work his shift for the day.

After the morning safety briefing and receiving my "new" work gear, Isaac and I fired up the truck and made our way to Val Verde Elementary School. We were on site by 6:15 am. Isaac

walked me to the areas where I would begin my work. He pointed out each location I was to mow and set the expectations and timeframe for completion of my work. I quickly learned the "why" of how our work would be organized. It was important to Isaac that we would always be in the opposite location of staff and students. As such, I was to mow one area in the interior of the campus and four areas at the front of the school. This way, I would be done before students and staff began arriving for school. By the way, Isaac told me to meet him back at the truck about 7:00 am. He figured I should be done with the first phase of my assignment by then.

Sure enough, right about 7:00 am I was back at the truck (already worn out) waiting for my next assignment. On a side note, this is not like mowing your own yard!! I must have walked 7000 steps in my first assignment. After a short break, the highlight of my day was upon me. A chance to drive the riding mower! After a safety briefing from my teacher Isaac, I climbed aboard, fired it up, and carefully made my way from the truck to the grass.

What a thrill! My level of concentration was through the roof. I wanted to make sure my lines were as perfect as possible. Ahh, the smell of fresh cut grass in the morning was awesome. While I was mowing, Isaac was edging. This was like a ballet. Together, we were making this school look sharp.

Isaac, started his career in Val Verde in 1992 and really takes a lot of pride in his work. During our breaks, he spoke of the importance of creating a well-manicured environment for students, teachers and the community. He stated, "the school community provides my evaluation." Isaac went on to talk about the times that staff, students, and parents compliment his work and how he treasures that feedback. On another note, he shared that parents will often be the first to let him know when something doesn't look good.

Over the course of the next several hours, I used the string trimmer while Isaac set out to trim hedges. Just before lunch, we started raking together, collecting the debris, and hauling it to the green waste dumpster.

I was exhausted and desperately needed our lunch break to recover. I can't remember the last time I brought my lunch to work. I was thirsty, hungry, and sweating. I kinda felt bad for the teachers in the lounge. I wasn't a pretty sight! Isaac and I chatted over lunch and he told me about an invention he's been working on to improve the work of gardeners and grounds people everywhere. We also talked about our own kids and visited with other people who stopped by to say hi.

The rest of the day was spent collecting debris from all the trimming and weed-whacking we did. Isaac also trimmed up a few palm trees. Once the palm fronds were picked up and Isaac was done blowing down the campus, we packed up the truck and headed back to the shop.

I began the day apologizing to Isaac for slowing him down. You see, he and his partner are assigned to five schools. That means if they get behind at one school, they won't return until the next week to finish it up. At the end of the day, I received the best compliment I could get from Isaac. He shared that we got everything accomplished just as if his regular partner was present. That made me feel really good. Isaac was a great partner, coach, teacher, and motivator. My life has definitely been enriched as a result of this experience!

By the way, I was exhausted at the end of the day. I went home, ate dinner, took a shower and went to bed. The next morning I was super sore. When I arrived at my office there was a gift from the maintenance and operations department on my desk. A brand new tube of Bengay and a bottle of Advil.

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Exhausted? Sir, that's a little melodramatic don't you think? Marines on the beach of Guadalcanal in WWII were exhausted. Soldiers on Normandy Beach being cut to pieces by heavy, German machine-gun fire were exhausted. Get the point?


This was a great article and very refreshing to read. I think what Mr. McCormick did was awesome, walking in someone else´s shoe for a day (an employee) gives a first hand view of the detailed responsibility of that employee, thus showing more admiration and pride in how the VVUSD family functions, and the pride that the employees exudes in their professional position, weather it was a teacher, custodian, aide, cafeteria staff or any of the numerous other positions filled by VVUSD employees. I too signed up last summer to work, and was placed at Rancho Verde High School, it was very laborious, we moved furniture's, switched out classrooms cleaned bathrooms, floors and the campus grounds I was sore for…


Good Afternoon

Wow McCormick, Mike

you are a super person to take the time to see what the employee do when they check in to work. Jaime congratulations on your win hope you day was a day of relaxing. The name drawing is the best ideal it will only empower us as a team of Val Verde Unified School District. Nice Job!


That was a very interesting article to read. I remember that morning. I was driving to my school and saw you mowing the grass in front. I had to look twice to make sure it was you. Then I parked and you took the time to shake my hand. I think it's great that you chose two people to take over their job for the day. This helps you see how hard working the Val Verde Unified School District staff are. It also shows the community that you care about every employee. I'm retiring this year and I will be proud to say I was a Special Education Teacher for 15 years at VVUSD! Thank you for helping me feel that way!


Very nice! it is never better way to learn and understand what someone is going through until we put ourselves in their shoes. I had the opportunity to work in the summer crew last summer, after being a Health Tech for 16 years. It is a hard job. Custodians have a detailed, neat and organized system and they take pride of their job. I think what Mr. McCormick does is a kind and wise way to get to know and support his employees. Besides, I enjoyed reading about his day. Congrats Isaac and a big thanks to our ground keepers !!

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