Meet the staff members who got students back in the classroom

Vaughn Springer
May 26, 2021 10:09:17 AM

Over the last year and a half, our schools faced the tremendous task of transitioning between face-to-face and virtual learning environments based on the status of COVID-19 in their buildings. With situations changing on what felt like a daily basis, the cheers and praise were constant for educators - for their flexibility, for their compassion, and for standing up for their students during these times. 

But behind the scenes, sanitizing classrooms and disinfecting hallways day in, day out, were those people who often went unrecognized; custodial staff members were the backbone of schools and the reason so many students were welcomed back into their buildings this year. 

After immigrating to the United States in 2017, Mohammad Al Kassen was looking for employment in the Dearborn area when he saw a position for a custodial worker at Global Heights Academy. After interviewing, he knew this would be a great opportunity and happily accepted the position. Now, he can be found walking the halls with his 20 gallon disinfection sprayer on a regular basis. 

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When the pandemic hit, there was a lot more sanitizing to do. I use the machine that was sent to us to spray classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, the cafeteria, and any surfaces that are touched regularly. I’m cleaning more often and working longer days to make sure the school is clean for students and staff.”

- Mohammad

The extra time he spends at the school is well worth it. Mohammad’s favorite part about working in the school is seeing the students and interacting with them every day. Thanks to his efforts, Global Heights Academy was able to welcome students back into the building in small groups for tutoring in the fall and back into the classroom in the spring.

I love working here because of the students and the staff. The students are so much fun to interact with, especially the younger ones in kindergarten and first grade. They look up to me. The staff is amazing, too.” 

- Mohammad

Over in Flint, Nick Zilz is the Operations Director at Greater Heights Academy. When the pandemic started, some major changes happened immediately including providing students with one-to-one technology, closing all common areas including drinking fountains. While students were gone in the spring, Nick and his staff’s main priority was keeping the staff safe so they could still provide for students.

Initially the biggest concerns were keeping all staff members safe. We implemented new protocols for PPE, social distancing and disinfecting processes. We also saw major changes in the food service program, and how we had to adjust everything to ensure all of our scholars had the meals that they depended on during the normal school year."

- Nick Zilz

Nick met with his school staff members as well as leaders from surrounding school districts to discuss plans and brainstorming the best ideas to get school back to normal. Through these meetings, they were able to get suggestions. GHA was able to purchase several new items including electrostatic disinfecting machines. It took all summer and fall, but through Nick’s work, Greater Heights Academy was able to develop a sanitizing and cleaning plan to welcome his amazing staff and students back into the building this spring.

The culture of our school is fantastic! It is unlike any place I have experienced in 16 years of working in schools. All staff members are more than willing to assist in all departments. This makes it very easy and enjoyable to provide the very best learning environment for our scholars.”

- Nick Zilz

Our schools wouldn’t exist without the incredible support staff that helps everything run smoothly. From custodial staff to office managers to food service teams, they stepped up to provide for students and communities in a time of need and we couldn’t be more proud.

An African American student sits at a lunch table smiling at the camera.

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