(COVINGTON, La.) — There is little that people know about what the maintenance staff does around campus, and it is impressive that this group of few men do everything that they do with such a small crew. It is necessary, because for a school to function well — which is the first line of the St. Paul’s School mission statement — it has to have desks, lights, pencil sharpeners, chairs, picnic tables, functioning toilets, cut grass, trash taken out, clean classrooms, and working air conditioning.
The maintenance program is much different today than it once was. The Christian Brothers once were the ones who performed all campus maintenance. Today, there are five main men that work on this community: SMSgt. Don Pressley, Israel Batiste, Randolph Young, Russell Wilcox Jr., and Gilberto Menica.
School president, Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC, feels that the maintenance crew does a fantastic job on campus.
“If you look at the buildings, they are in good shape, and if you look at the campus, it is also in good shape, which makes our school so beautiful,” Bro. Ray said.
Maintenance members Wilcox and Batiste have been at St. Paul’s for several years. Batiste has been at St. Paul’s for 37 years, and he found out about St. Paul’s though friends. Before SPS, he worked at a shipyard, but said that he “couldn’t make it there,” so he came to St. Paul’s. Back then, he said they had separate crew members for various functions on campus, but now, just a few people work on the entire campus. When he first started 37 years ago, Baptiste said he made $5 an hour. When he finally decided to start a family, he asked Bro. Ray if he could drive the bus and do additional maintenance for extra money.
In addition to regular maintenance, the crew occasional work on special projects. For example, Batiste helped build the cement benches in Founder’s Circle. He said that it was a hard job, and that his grandfather assisted him.
“The hardest jobs that we have done on campus include pulling up the ground of one of the school buildings, and also when we put up scaffolds in the old student center,” said Batiste.
Wilcox found out about SPS through Batiste. He was working at a meat processing company at the time, then came to work on St. Paul’s Campus, where he has been ever since. Wilcox remembers the specific chair layout for every function that regularly occurs in the Briggs Assembly Center, which is difficult, because there are over 850 students plus faculty and parents, and the layouts often vary by event. According to Wilcox, sometimes they will set up all of the chairs, and once they are done, someone will come back and tell them to face the chairs in a different direction, so they have to start all over.
The crew collectively states that they found coming to St. Paul’s a great learning experience, and have learned things they might not have otherwise.
MSgt. Pressley, known on campus as Sarge, manages the Maintenance crew. Sarge came to SPS as part of the AFJROTC program in 1991. When Sarge got out of the ROTC program several years later, Bro. Ray asked him to stay here and help with other happenings around campus, including managing the snack program.
Bro. Ray says that “Sgt. Don Presley is a pleasure to work with, (and is) very responsive. No job is too big or too small for him. He is a very valued member of this crew.”