Parents get down and dirty to keep a middle school clean

The Wednesday cleaning crew at King Middle School | Photo courtesy Renae Plant

The Wednesday cleaning crew at King Middle School | Photo courtesy Renae Plant


LOS FELIZ — While the staff of King Middle School has focused on improving performance in the classroom, a group of parents have decided that another part of the school needed some improvement – the bathrooms.

School YardOn every Wednesday since the start of the school year, a small group of parents equipped with gloves, brushes, brooms and other cleaning supplies descend on the school on the border of Los Feliz and Silver Lake to clean up bathrooms and other areas  while educating its approximately 1,500 students on how to keep their campus clean.

“We want to bring back a sense of pride and community that will build morale and help the students,” said Renae Plant, who organized the cleans up as part of her work on the school’s beautification committee.

After hearing many concerns and complaints from students and their parents about how dirty the bathrooms were, Plant, whose daughter attends King, took matters into her own hands by organizing the Wednesday cleans up between 10 a.m. and 1 pm.
Photo courtesy Renae Plant

Before & After | Photo courtesy Renae Plant

The parents’ volunteer labor supplement’s the schools budget for  custodial services, which at King totals approximately $374,000, or 5.22% of Kings budget for 2014 – 2015, according to a KPCC analysis of individual school budgets. Plant believes the money being spent on keeping the campus clean
is not sufficient, mentioning the complaints she has heard of the bathrooms “stinking” and the lack of custodians.

Mark Naulls, principal at King Middle School, said its been struggling with its facilities budget for the past several years. But he noted that funding is being slowly being restored to pre-recession levels. “The parents have helped give a boost to the cleaning services here because they want the teachers and staff to focus on teaching. We’ve really enjoyed working in partnership with them,” said Naulls.

Academic performance at King has improved over the past decade and the school became an all-magnet campus in 2013. But Plant, who is owner of Camelot Kids preschool in Silver Lake and is a member of the Friends of King school support group, has seen many of the parents who enroll their kids at the local elementary schools question whether their children should  attend King, with many opting to enroll their children at private schools instead.  Clean bathrooms – and a campus – would be a selling point to win over new parents.

“It is better to be proactive instead of complaining,” said Plant. “The school has become one of the highest ranking middle schools in L.A. Unified and we wanted those changes to reflect on the outside as well.”

Lucy Guanuna has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

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  1. In Japan, the schools do not have janitors. The students all pitch in and clean the school after each day. If you have to clean up after yourself, how likely are you to throw that candy wrapper on the floor?

  2. as a former parent at that school, it amazes me that the same situation re: the bathrooms exists. seemed like the admin never cared about the disgusting and squalid conditions of the student’s restrooms, and it still not a big deal with them.
    i applaud the parents taking the matter into their own hands, but it’s really a shame that the (various) admins have done nothing about this, and that parents have to go in and do something already in the budget.

    • I agree that parents shouldn’t have to go in and clean the restrooms that are already [obviously] budgeted for maintenance. This is also an issue of how the students are treating the bathroom. That picture showing the heavily soiled toilet seat if from students STANDING on the toilet seat with their filthy shoes rather than sitting on the toilet. They need to be corrected and educated. I also agree with el boomerator that if ALL the children had a hand in cleaning up (perhaps with those parents being their example- instead of stifling them by doing it for them) , there would be much less of a mess at the end of the day.

  3. I’m just curious why the students don’t clean the bathrooms. Why the parents? It could be a very good lesson in stewardship, hard work, and pride.

  4. clean bathrooms a “selling point” to parents considering private school? Clean bathrooms are part of a minimum expectation, not a selling point.
    $375k per year for custodial services at a school of only 1500, and they can’t keep the bathrooms from being utterly filthy? Maybe y’all should look at: a) how much you’re paying the custodians b) what their productivity is

  5. Good job parents!

    Still though, how can $375,000/yr not be enough to keep the schools bathroom’s clean?

    Perhaps some staff should be fired. In a city with such high unemployment, I’m sure there’s someone out there who would be more than content to get paid to keep this school’s bathrooms properly clean.

  6. The custodians are SEIU members and will be getting $15 an hour soon….

    Questions which come to mind (for me)
    How many student restrooms? How many for teachers? Admin? How often are the non-student RRs cleaned?
    How many rooms are carpeted (requiring more vacuuming)?
    If there is an onsite cafeteria is it cleaned by cafeteria staff or custodians?
    How large is the custodian staff? How many hours per day?
    According to the new SEIU contract what are the duties for custodians? Does the daily ‘crew’ have a supervisor with them? Does he (only) supervise or does he assist in the cleaning?

    I imagine that LAUSD provides the cleaning supplies….which downtown admin would deduct the cost from the school’s budget…any idea what part of the total budget the supplies are?
    Does the school have to pay for trash removal from their budget?

    If I were a parent I’d want to get involved with the PTA and whatever the name is for the local site council….

    clean restrooms are nice but demonstrating to all (children, staff, admin, downtown) that parents want more……

    shoe marks on the wc? I worked at a food processing company and that was a problem in the men’s…..a new ops mgr was hired, he asked about it and was told it was cultural (many recent immigrants…..flush toilets are not universal (often the wc at the rest stops on French highways are squat types and only Americans find them odd).

    • You can stop at SEIU. Those bathrooms are never going to be clean. The same way we have close to the highest teacher salaries and the close to the lowest ranked schools. MONEY IS NOT THE PROBLEM. The unions are the problem. Unions breed complacency and mediocrity.

      • blue iris = Ted Cruz

        Union busting is a major reason the middle class has shrunk as much as it has.

        Correct mismanagement. Don’t bust the unions

        • besides, the bathrooms are now clean! How about “good job, thanks parents!”

          • olomo= one who can’t do basic math

            Perhaps you are a product of this great union controlled LAUSD system.

            Correct mismanagement? We are way past that. The unions have been singing the same song for the last 30 years; we need more money. The more money we dump into this quagmire, the worse it seems to get. Again. The most cost for the poorest results.

            Why have charter schools out performed our traditional schools time and time again at a far less cost per student? Do that math for me olomo.

          • It is a fallacy that charters outperform public schools. Charters can be extremely unfriendly to English language learners, families that can’t make large fundraising donations, as well as to students who don’t perform well on standardized tests.
            Academic performance is lower where poverty and racial segregation are higher. The US is the leader among “advanced” nations in the proportion of children living in poverty. Income equality in the US is greater now than at any other time in the last 100 years.

            Poverty and racial segregation are the enemies.
            Don’t bust the unions!

          • Blue Iris you’re clueless. First of all, when you’ve met salary demands and hired the staff, SUPERVISION and MANAGEMENT become the critical factors for complying with CDE policy on restrooms and rest assured, schools that do not are out of compliance with state policy. Also, charter schools in L.A. are NOT regularly out-performing public schools. There have been several articles and media reports documenting this fact. You obviously just like repeating unfounded rhetoric resulting in your utterly CLUELESS profile.

          • Btw, before you default into another one of your tired stereotypes, I’ve never been a member of any union but support the principle behind them. At which point, greed, bureaucracy, and mismanagement emerge as the primary breakdowns in achieving desired goals and outcomes. That those being paid to do the job are underperforming and out of compliance should be the focus of any outrage NOT some unrealistic fantasy that parents will sustain this effort into the indefinite future. What’s next? Neighbors repairing potholes? Drivers directing traffic? Parents teaching classes?!? Like I’ve said, go back to Kansas with your delusional and ass-backwards recipes for public implosion.

  7. There is SO much money allocated to LAUSD through our tax money…but the money is absolutely NOT going to the schools or to the classrooms. ALL of our tax money is suppose to support the students, that’s what the whole business is suppose to be about, yet the money is year after year spent supporting out-of-classroom administrators and so many other “things” that I can’t even go into explaining and listing; it’s really incomprehensible how our tax money is spent paying wages to administrators and bureaucrats who make a starting salary of $110,000 while teachers who do ALL of the educating have a starting salary In LAUSD $45,637….administrators make more than double and do half the work.

    Remember, our money is suppose to go to support the students; and who has more contact and influence than the classroom teachers?

    It’s great the parents are organizing and cleaning the bathrooms but it’s absolutely BS that there is no $ to hire support staff to clean the facilities. There is no F*cking way that the administrators down at Beaudry and other district buildings are f*cking scrubbing their own toilets.

  8. Ha! Some people will do anything to get their picture in the paper.

  9. What tax dollars are you talking about? It fluctuates but California is ranked near the VERY bottom of per pupil spending. Californians who vote are very much against paying for education. Doesn’t matter if it’s public school or higher education, the generation starting with the baby boomers, who thrived from the Californina system, became xenophobic and selfish. It a shame that public schools have to raise tons of extra money and have parents volunteer so much. It creates a disparity in the poor districts where both parents work crappy jobs, hence no money or volunteering. I applaud the parents at King for doing what needs to get done. We can’t wait for the state, the voters, the district and the teachers to fix it.

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