Students should acknowledge staff who keep the school running


Sam Siegel , Contributing Writer

If HM student lives could be boiled down to a simple equation, I believe that the school staff would be considered the forgotten constants. From cleaners and cafeteria workers to office administrators and public safety, our school’s incredible staff are the forgotten heroes who make sure that every day, we can enjoy a clean, safe, smoothly functioning school to the fullest. 

This is an issue with HM’s culture. Many of us are so hopelessly caught up in our privileged lives that we often don’t acknowledge the people making our school lives possible. However, this is an easily fixable issue. Simply saying a quick ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ to the under-acknowledged members of our community would be enough to start the process of truly appreciating and respecting all in our maroon family.

When I walk into the school every day, I see hordes of people stream into Olshan Lobby on their way to class with eyes buried in the latest Tik Tok trend, ignoring public safety specialist Glenn Smith and receptionist Olive Keegan. They never complain about this reality, but the fact remains that Mr. Smith and Mrs. Keegan are tasked with critical jobs that ensure our safety and comfort at HM. We should treat these unsung heroes with the basic courtesy of learning their names and giving a smile. The fact that only a few students acknowledge them is evidence of the issue that too many of us tend to ignore those working in the background. 

Another example is the treatment of the FLIK cafeteria staff. Regardless of what you might think about the food quality or options, the reality is that FLIK staff are in the building at 6 a.m. with the grueling job of feeding hundreds. Yet, they are rarely thanked. I have heard them talked down to on several occasions, from middle schoolers complaining about the lack of pasta as staff rush to refill the container, to high schoolers taking food without making eye contact or saying ‘thank you.’

A few weeks ago, food was banned from Friedman Hall because students had a food fight and didn’t clean up their mess. That, plus the fact that reminders about leaving trash around school is a mainstay in Sr. Dalo’s weekly email, prove too many members of the community feel comfortable letting others clean up after them. It’s embarrassing. Not only should we clean up after ourselves, but we should have more respect for the staff that end up cleaning up what we leave behind. At the very least, we could thank those who attempt to make the school spotless every day.

The true number of these overlooked HM staff numbers is in the dozens, but I am going to focus on one last group: administrative assistants. They do the work to keep your life as a student running smoothly. Got an academic report? That went through Mr. Smith long before it hit your parents’ inboxes. Got your semester grade back? Depending on the grade level, that went through Mr. Smith, Mrs. Cassino, or Mrs. Gonzalez. Ever met with Dr. Kelly in Spence Cottage? Mrs. Joao put you in his calendar. If all these staff members called in sick one day and their work went undone, the backbone of HM would break. However, few ever thank these amazing people for their hard work. Instead, students stream past them as a formality before interacting with Sr. Dalo, Dr. Levenstein, Dr. Fippinger, or Dr. Kelly. So why is it that too many of us feel comfortable ignoring the essential staff around them, moving past them without even a quick ‘hello’ or a deserved ‘thank you’?

I believe it has to do with upbringing. While the school has made notable strides towards a more socioeconomically diverse student body, the fact remains that statistically the majority of students come from wealthy families — including myself. For some, that wealth allows families to hire numerous domestic workers within their own homes, potentially allowing students to internalize the idea that they should not have to clean up after themselves. 

That attitude transfers to school, where too many disregard both our environment and the staff. I am not saying that parents should forgo using their hard-earned money to hire help, but in my mind, this is one factor that creates a culture of disrespect around those who work extremely hard and without thanks. The solution is simple: say a quick thank you so that the staff know that they are valued members of the community, and not people whose sole mission is to clean up after you. 

“Sam, you grew up in a wealthy family with cooks and nannies,” I imagine the angry reader saying; I acknowledge this and agree. In full transparency, I did not start interacting with these underappreciated HM heroes until my sophomore year. I was the stereotypical HM student that I describe, and I had to put a lot of effort to actively change these behavior patterns. It took years, and I still have to remind myself to say thank you as often as possible, but in my mind it is truly the effort that counts when trying to change the situation. 

As students, we need to do better. This behavior cannot stand. It is against every value that an HM student should embody. What if someone treated YOU like this after a long and arduous day?

We all must acknowledge the people who work here, in the halls, in the cafeteria, behind the security desks. Say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, or even just make eye contact and smile, and show your respect by cleaning up after yourself. Treat staff with the same respect you extend to your teachers and others. 

It is really as easy as taking a second or two to say hello to the forgotten constants making life better for everyone at HM.

Olive Keegan – Telephone Receptionist
Ennis Smith – Administrative Assistant to the Grade Deans
Glenn Smith – Public Safety Specialist
Laura Cassino – Administrative Assistant for Data Management
Diana Gonzalez – Senior Administrative Assistant to the Head of Upper Division, Dean of Faculty and Dean of Students
Jefferson Reyna – Mail Room & Delivery Services Coordinator
Jimmy Otsuni – Maintenance Staff Member