2_2015 Page 8

Feb_15_WF

CSEA women break down gender barriers MOUNT VERNON — No matter how often she hears it, a smile emerges on Jeanine Bicknese’s face when people ask to speak with her boss at Longfellow Elementary. “That would Bicknese be me,” Bicknese, a longtime CSEA member, said. Who’s in charge? Despite many advances for women, it’s taken time at many work sites for women to commonly fill blue collar and skilled trades jobs. In the Mount Vernon City School District, no woman had held a leadership role in one of the district’s blue collar titles. Until this past year, that is. Times are changing Bicknese recently became the district’s first female head custodian. “We’re getting our foot in the door and getting the respect we deserve for running the business here,” said Bicknese, who also serves as the CSEA Mount Vernon School District Unit treasurer. “The women are really starting to get recognized for their leadership abilities. This is not just a 3ßπ man’s world.” CSEA Mount Vernon School District Unit leaders noticed that Bicknese’s promotion is part of a positive trend in the district. Unit members Laura Dandridge and Rochelle Washington have stepped up into custodian jobs and co-worker Yuri White, who spent years as a cleaner and custodian, is the district’s first female messenger. “Anything I’m asked to do, I do it,” said White, who makes deliveries throughout the day to different district schools, the post office and law offices. “They didn’t change any rules just because I’m a woman. I do everything the males did and more.” Learning the job Dandridge, after many years as a district teacher’s assistant, was looking for a new challenge. So when a civil service exam for the custodian title was announced, she got to work. “At home, if a tile pops off, I’m watching videos online on how to fix it,” Dandridge said. “There are custodial training videos on YouTube, so I used those to help study, and I continued to learn while I waited for an interview.” Dandridge and Bicknese, a cleaner Yuri White, the first woman to work as messenger in the Mount Vernon schools, isn’t intimidated by the lifting and driving her job entails. before taking the head custodian gig, both credit experienced custodians for serving as mentors. “If there was something wrong with the bathroom in my classroom, I was asking the custodians questions,” Dandridge said. Growth through civil service The women’s successes on the job show that civil service remains a good path for women, working mothers included. Bicknese got a foot in the door as a food service handler. “I’d drop my kids at school and then went to work,” she said. “As they got bigger and I was able to do more hours, I applied for a cleaner position.” White holds the distinction of being the first female custodian in Mount Vernon before taking the messenger job. “The kids, the girls especially, are always impressed to see me doing this job,” White said. “I believe shows them the opportunities that exist through civil service.” For Dandridge, the opportunity to increase her income while staying in the school setting was a win-win. “The kids who knew me from the classroom now see me doing so much more,” she said. “I’m helping keep the building safe and healthy for the children. It’s a great job.” — Jessica Ladlee Rochelle Washington, a custodian at the Mount Vernon School District, prepares to place ice melt on school walkways. Laura Dandridge helps keep the Mount Vernon schools clean and safe. 8 The Work Force February 2015


Feb_15_WF
To see the actual publication please follow the link above