The custodians: overlooked members of the Lincoln community



Carl Miller (left) stands with Rodger Hastings (right) next to the janitorial breakroom.

Roger Hastings and Carl Miller. While most of you probably haven’t heard these names, they’ve heard yours. These are two of the 12 custodians currently cleaning up after you at Lincoln High School. They sweep our halls, wipe down our tables and keep our crumbling school in working order. Yet, many students barely know or acknowledge them. 

Miller has been working at Lincoln since the ‘90s. He took a break in 2012 to work at Ainsworth and Forest Park, but otherwise he has been working at Lincoln for a long time. He explains how things here now are “100 percent better than they were in the ‘90s.” 

“In the ‘90s, kids used to eat upstairs on the second floor… in the stairwells and everywhere,” says Miller, describing the worst messes he’s had to clean up. Now he has to deal with a whole different problem: cleaning up the homeless camps. 

“Some of the homeless camps can be unpleasant because of the things they do, they collect things you know… so it’s a lot of extra work because of them sometimes,” he explains.

While things have definitely improved since the ‘90s, when Miller remembers students throwing apples at him in sophomore hall, relations with students still aren’t perfect. 

“Some of them acknowledge us and some of them don’t, we’re kind of invisible. I think they know who we are when they see us but they’re nice I guess,” he says. 

According to Miller, students at Lincoln used to be more talkative towards the custodians.

“[The students] used to ask me questions… like how long have you been around and how much do you get paid and stuff like that.” However, Miller says he hasn’t had conversations like these lately.

Hastings, first in command, also has not had too many conversations with students. Hastings has been working with Portland Public Schools for 40 years. He started at Marshall High School in 1979 and has been working at various schools in the PPS district since then. He has only been at Lincoln for a year, and for this reason, he feels as if he “hasn’t earned the status” of being in the Lincoln community yet.

“I think some of the staff appreciate me and some of the staff don’t. I’ve had less than a handful of conversations with Mrs. Chapman,” Hastings says. 

Hastings and Miller have similar views on their relations with students.

“I think in some cases they fear me because every time I cross their path when I’m sweeping the hallway it’s ‘oh sorry!’” Hastings says. “Well, why are you sorry? You’re the customer, not me! I’m just here trying to clean up but they are always sorry, which they shouldn’t be.” 

He says that he would appreciate being greeted with a ‘hello!’ or ‘thank you’ more than the random apologies he gets from students and staff alike.

In addition to greeting our custodians with kind words, one last thing that Hastings says students could help with is separating trash and recycling. 

“Don’t throw trash in the recycling!” he says. “Respect the recycling containers!” 

When students mix garbage and recycle Hastings and his team have to determine whether they can salvage the recycling, and in most cases, the whole recycling bin must be taken to the landfill because it has been contaminated by trash.

Although students’ treatment of our custodians has gotten better since the ‘90s, there is still more students can do to support them and make them feel like a part of the Lincoln community.