Staff in the Spotlight
One of the first things you’ll notice when you walk into Sunset Park School is how beautifully maintained this 101-year-old building is. This is due entirely to our school’s talented custodial team: (from left to right) Richard Arnold, Hector Ortiz, Kurt Matthews, Eric Aviles, and Juan Matamoros. This hard-working team is an integral part of our school community, and that’s why they’re the focus of our first SPS Spotlight!
Hector Ortiz has worked as a custodian for seventeen years—almost four years of which he’s spent at SPS. He was born and raised in Brooklyn and is of Puerto Rican descent. Kurt Matthews has been working at SPS for the last four years. He was born in Brooklyn, and his parents immigrated to the United States from Trinidad. Richard “Richie” Arnold has worked as a custodian for twelve years and has been with SPS for nine of them. Juan and Eric are new to the team with less than two years. They were both born in the US, but their parents immigrated here from Puerto Rico and Ecuador.
Our entire custodial team takes great pride in their work and feel that providing a welcoming, clean building is essential to running a successful school. “When the teachers come back from break and they have these big smiles on their faces and tell me how clean the building is, it makes me feel good about my work here,” said Kurt. And this team has worked hard to get the building to where it is today. “I do this work because I know how important it is to make the school better for the kids,” reported Hector. “I would want my own kids to have a clean, comfortable building to go to, and our students should have a great experience too.”
Kurt Matthews was recently invited to SPS Kindergarten classrooms to tell students about his work. “I was teaching them what custodians do. It made me feel great. Now Kindergarteners stop me in the hallways and say, ‘Hi, Mr. Kurt!’” The children included Kurt in their final project about important workers in our school community.
As one of the newest members of the custodial team, Eric is grateful to be in a school where his hard work is acknowledged. Over the summer, Eric and Juan helped beautify the staff lounge. Eric appreciated being thanked for his work in an email that the Principal sent to the staff. “I hope that other new custodians experience the same kind of thing at their schools,” he said.
Recently, some allegations were lodged against our custodial staff in the press. Our custodians were deeply saddened by these allegations. Richie shared, “As a minority, I feel sad that somebody would think I would say something like that. I wouldn’t want somebody to say something like that about me since my family immigrated here too. I don’t want the kids to look at me like I’m some kind of monster who would want that. I don’t wish that on anybody.” Juan added, “We work so hard and it’s sad to hear that people would believe that we said those horrible things. I don’t want the community to think that we are two-faced and that we say things behind our students’ backs. We’re not like that.”
Kurt summed it up, “We just work hard for the kids. That’s it. I have four of my own and here I feel like we have 1600 kids to care for.” The rest of the team agreed.
We couldn’t agree more! Big thanks to Sunset Park School’s incredible custodial staff for everything they do for our students, our teachers, and our entire school community every day.