Ridgeview Elementary assistant secretary Angela Hayes and Willard Elementary head custodian Dale Floyd were two of four people recently named Distinguished Classified Employees for 2019-20 by Spokane Public Schools.
The other recipients were Hannah Alaskar, a paraeducator at Logan Elementary, and Mark Kelly, lead operator of the SPS Print Shop.
Hayes has worked for the school district for 20 years, first as a playground supervisor at Woodridge Elementary, where her children attended, then as a paraeducator at Grant Elementary.
“I just fell in love with the school district,” she said.
She said she’d always wanted to work as a school secretary, but there were rarely openings. While Ridgeview was under construction, some of the staff and students relocated to Grant Elementary, where Hayes first met them. “They were just really wonderful people,” she said.
When a secretarial position opened up at Ridgeview, Hayes couldn’t apply fast enough.
“When I walked in eight years ago, I instantly became a part of their family,” she said.
In the last year she has leaned heavily on that family for support. In December 2018, she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She received chemotherapy for five months, but it didn’t work so her doctors started a secondary protocol treatment.
“They had me looking for (drug) trials,” she said. “Trials are pretty much the last resort.”
But her treatment was eventually successful. The tumors and her pancreas and liver have shrunk and stabilized. “In the pancreatic world, stable is great,” she said.
During her illness the staff at Ridgeview brought her food, visited her and brought her to chemotherapy appointments. They also donated their leave time so she will still be paid for the time she’s missed from work. “From the moment I got diagnosed, they have been there in every way, shape and form,” she said. “I couldn’t do this without them.”
Then in December 2019, her son died of an accidental drug overdose. Again, the staff at Ridgeview rallied, collecting money to help pay for funeral expenses. Hayes returned to work soon after, drawing strength from her co-workers and the students.
“I had to be here,” she said.
Though Hayes gives the credit to her co-workers, they think the world of her. Her nominator wrote that Hayes is an amazing person.
“Despite experiencing extreme personal challenges and incredible loss, she continued coming to work with a smile on her face,” the nomination reads. “Angela’s courage and compassion permeate the building and inspire her co-workers to connect with others in ways that heal hearts and lift people up.”
Hayes said the award was a complete surprise. She was told the school would be gathering for a student award assembly and wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on during the assembly until she saw her entire family walk in the door.
“I was thinking about how much work I had back on my desk,” she said. “I started crying. We’ve had a very tough year. It was nice to be recognized. I love what I do and would do it for free.”
Dale Floyd was called into a staff meeting before school one day while he was clearing snow from the sidewalks and was surprised to find out he’d been given an award.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I’m really overwhelmed by it. I take pride in my work, and I guess, obviously, it shows.”
Mr. Dale, as the students call him, worked in a lumber mill for 16 years and a medical supply warehouse for 11 years before taking a custodial position at Madison Elementary. He worked there for 14 years before moving to Willard just after spring break last year.
Floyd said he loves his work. “I really do,” he said. “I enjoy helping people, keeping things clean.”
He isn’t just focused on cleaning the building, however. It isn’t unusual for him to be helping the younger students put the straws in their milk at lunch time and doing other helpful acts.
“I enjoy helping the kids,” he said.
One student, third-grader Sofia DeCaro, made a poster thanking Floyd for his work after word of his award got out.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “The kids here, they really warmed up to me. About every day I get a student coming up to me to say thank you for cleaning the school.”
Floyd said longtime staff members have told him the school hasn’t looked this good in years, a sentiment that was echoed by the person who nominated Floyd for his award. Floyd “takes such pride in the cleanliness of the school that the building has never looked better,” the nomination reads. “Additionally, he works hard to make connections with students that truly make a difference in their lives.”
Floyd, 66, said he’s thinking about retiring in three years and wants to spend those years at Willard.
“I’d like to finish up here,” he said. “It seems like there’s always something to do. It’s a challenge.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.