Custodians build their leadership capacity

Gary Robinson, custodian at First Colonial High School, gravitated to the area in the room designated for the people discussing why “collaboration” is a trait that most resonates with them.

“It’s about making sure that we all work together as a team to ensure that the building is safe and clean,” he said. “Just like a professional team that you see on t.v.”

He was one of 20 custodians selected out of 80 who applied for one of the coveted seats in the leadership and management training for custodians, a six-session, 12-week course that started last week with the goal of building leadership capacity.

Their first activity: familiarizing themselves with the division’s core values and how everyone in the building – regardless of his or her position — plays an important role.

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Meanwhile, Brandon Middle School custodian Alexander Tarampi described valuing difference as understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses to motivate as well as help each other – again to accomplish work collaboratively as a team.

Speaking for the group gathered around the goal discussing continuous learning, White Oaks Elementary School head night custodian David Lenczewski even gave an example of that value in action.

“A binder with clear expectations would serve as a great training tool,” he shared. “We would review it on a regular basis.”

The session was not only about familiarizing participants with the school division’s core values and goals but also discovering their personal working styles so that they can learn how different personalities contribute to a team.

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The new custodian leadership cohort was formed last year as part of a succession process to prepare for leadership vacancies among school-based custodians as well as area supervisors. Twenty custodians participated with many earning a promotion after completing the course, which is co-facilitated by staff from the offices of Professional Growth and Innovation (PGI), Custodial Services and Human Resources.

Upcoming sessions will focus on providing positive feedback while coaching others on their team; managing difficult conversations with employees; and resume writing/interviewing skills.

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“We’re going to challenge you with scenarios during the next several weeks. We’re going to help you develop leadership skills to build on your strengths as well as develop knowledge and skills needed for leadership roles in our school division,” said co-presenter Sarah Payne, professional learning specialist with PGI. She and professional learning specialist Shelley Labiosa lead the sessions.

So what do participants hope to gain?

For Red Mill Elementary School custodian Marvin Jones it was three things:  “I want to build up my skills and mentor students. However, I also want to learn how to deal with the daily process of change.”

The Leadership and Management series is part of the PGI’s work to support a culture of growth and excellence as outlined in Goal 4 of the strategic framework, Compass to 2020. To read more about the work of PGI staff, visit their blog or follow @PGI-VBCPS on Twitter.

Another leadership and management training for custodians will be held in the spring.

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