Minnesota Custodian Wins National Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award, Honored at Ceremony in Washington D.C.

Award winner joined school staff from across the nation for ceremony on May 9th at Rayburn House Office Building

Burnsville, Minnesota  – Mark Glende, Head Custodian at Sioux Trail Elementary School, 22-year employee of ISD 191 Burnsville-Eagan- Savage School District and member of SEIU Local 284 was honored in Washington D.C. Wednesday as one of the 2018 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award winners. The award is being given to five individuals from across the country who are doing extraordinary and inspirational things in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster positive learning environments, and ensure student success.

Mark_Glende_191_rsMark was recognized for his proven track record of going above and beyond to make the school a safe, welcoming and enriching place for all the students. He has painted a world map on the playground, painted numbers and fractions on steps to help younger students learn math and even painted inspirational words on the gym walls in his effort to turn “dead space” into “learning spaces.” Mark even volunteered to shave his head for a student body fundraiser for Pennies for Patients.

“I’m very proud to win this award. I truly believe if we each leave things a little better than we find them, we can accomplish amazing things,” said Glende. “I am proud to be able to work every day to make that a reality for students in my community.”

Mark has worked hard to make the school a more energy efficient building, establishing the S.E.E. SQUAD, Schools for Energy Efficiency. For this project, he worked with student groups on things like turning off classroom lights when unoccupied and making sure blinds were down at the end of the day to keep the heat from escaping overnight. They found out that by turning off gym lights for just two hours a day the school could save an additional $500 per month.

Because of the work of Mark and others, Sioux Trail Elementary School became one of the first Minnesota schools to become an ENERGY STAR Leader Top Performer and in 2007 ranked as the second most energy efficient school in the Midwest.

“Mark is a classic example of school employees across Minnesota who go above and beyond every single day to make our schools safer and more enriching for our students,” said Keith Niemi, President of SEIU Local 284. “We are incredibly proud of Mark and the positive impact he is making on students, his school and the community. His whole SEIU Local 284 family are incredibly proud of this outstanding achievement.”

Another project Mark helped grow was the Enhanced Recycling and Organics Program (EROP). The focus was on recycling in the classrooms and recycling and organic separation in the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch. He taught a group of students the proper way to sort their lunch trays, and those students went on to teach their fellow students. That group of students gave up their recess time once a week to go classroom-to-classroom and talk trash, compost or recycle, and worked with Mark as Trash Talkers. Out of this Mark started the SMART (Sort More And Reduce Trash) program. Over the next couple years the school was able to reduce trash output from a four-yard dumpster picked up daily to a one-yard dumpster picked up once a week.

Mark’s work saw him appointed to his city’s newly formed Environmental & Sustainability Task Force in 2015. Mark was elected chairman by the task force members in the first year, and over the next 3 years the taskforce has been responsible for a 52% decrease in energy consumption in the city’s 5 municipal buildings.

In 2016, Mark got tired of seeing all the milk being thrown away that students didn’t drink at breakfast and lunch, so he came up with the One More Sip challenge. It took six weeks to establish a baseline of milk being poured down the drain, and then he started asking students to take one more sip before they went out to recess. From October to May the school increased milk consumption from 60% to over 90%.

Mark had the student council help him and he dubbed them his Moo Crew. They made posters to hang not only in the cafeteria but all over school. Now students celebrate two-sip Tuesday and Finish Your Milk Friday. They also came up with weekly toasts that always ended with “and here’s to the cows!”

The RISE award is given yearly by the National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU), a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees. The award highlights the individual contributions of school staff and recognizes the essential role that all education professionals play in shaping our public schools.

There are more than 2.8 million classified education support employees in our nation’s public schools, colleges, and universities and they make up one-third of the public education workforce.  They ensure students achieve at their highest levels. They keep students fed, emotionally and physically healthy and safe, engaged and connected to the larger school community, and provide instruction and support that leads to academic success.

Classified education support employees work in the following nine career families:

  • Child nutrition services
  • Clerical services
  • Custodial and maintenance services
  • Health and student services
  • Paraeducators
  • Security services
  • Skilled trades
  • Technical services
  • Transportation services

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The National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU) is a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees, including clerical and administrative staff, custodians, food service workers, health and student services workers, paraeducators, technology services employees, transportation workers, and security and skilled trades staff.

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