COMMACK — Most schools may be closed for the summer, but many CSEA members who are employed at school districts are reporting for duty year-round.

Deer Park School District bus driver Heather Johnson checks her mirrors before beginning her bus route.

Deer Park School District Bus Driver Heather Johnson has been transporting high school-aged special needs children this summer.

A lover of ‘the big yellow bus’ since childhood, Johnson loves being a school bus driver and getting to know the children who eventually become like family.

Even with its personal benefits, the job still comes with its challenges.

“Sometimes, the kids act out and I have to call transportation [for support]and a supervisor comes out to help manage the children,” said Johnson.

Given the lingering COVID-19 concerns, all bus seats, including the driver’s seat, are sanitized after every ride.

Over at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, Oyster Bay-East Norwich Unit members have been working diligently to prepare the school for the upcoming school year.

The five-person custodial crew has been cleaning and disinfecting the elementary school from top to bottom since school let out.

CSEA Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District Unit President Mike Rottino, left, and school custodian Frank Labella wipe down chairs in a classroom.

“We have to pull all of the furniture, clean all of the furniture, clean and wax the floors and whatever else we can do in-house” said Oyster Bay-East Norwich Unit President Mike Rottino. “It’s more of an intense cleaning than what we do during the school year.”

Grounds crew members have been maintaining the school buildings’ exterior. Their already tough job is made even more difficult due to the high heat and humidity of the summer months.
No matter what their role, there is never a lack of work.

“The big joke when the teachers come back from the summer is when they ask us how our summer was,” said custodian John Willers. “My reply is always, ‘Great, because the cleaning fairy came here and cleaned up everything [laughs].’”

“People are usually surprised when they find out that I work at a school and that I work during the summer,” said Rottino. “It’s funny because we work just as hard during the summer, if not harder, than we do during the school year.”

— Wendi Bowie

Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District groundskeeper Jackson O’Neill trims the hedges in front of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School.


About Author

Wendi Bowie

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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