My Turn: Danielle Slater

“I’ve found in my union an amazing support system.”

Danielle Slater is head custodian at Conowingo Elementary School in Cecil County.

Giving back to my community has always been very important to me. So, in 2015, when I was offered a position as a custodian with Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS), I jumped at the opportunity.

At my first school, Bainbridge Elementary, I was given the chance to work with kids who needed behavioral support. I started a program called the Cleanest Classroom. The kids loved the friendly competition with their classmates and it really gave the them a sense of pride in their school community. Fast forward to 2019 when I was offered the head custodian position at Conowingo Elementary and was welcomed into the Cub family. Here, I’ve been privileged to team up with our student support center techs to help mentor kids who need one-on-one attention.

Being a custodian isn’t only about providing a safe, clean environment. It’s also about being someone students can look up to and relate to. For some of them, home isn’t that safe space it should be and their school day is a sanctuary. I truly believe that if I can make one child’s day better, I’ve accomplished my goal.

“Covid-19 has left many worried and out of work and struggling to provide. It’s a very scary situation for so many of us.”

While I love my Cub family, I can’t forget about my union family. Unfortunately, the possibility of working only one job isn’t an option on a custodian’s salary. When I realized that I couldn’t survive on one income, I became interested in the union. No one is going to hand you things in life — you must work hard and fight for them. I figured the union would be a good place to start.

But until we are able to achieve a living wage for custodians like me, I’ll need to keep my part-time job with Ace Hardware, where I‘ve worked for 14 years as a general manager. I average 12-hour workdays which makes for a very long day. I have a young daughter and, while it’s a challenge to balance work and home, I will move mountains for her so she has every advantage in this world.

I’ve found in my union an amazing support system of people who have my — and every team member’s — best interests in mind. Coronavirus has left many worried and out of work and struggling to provide. It’s a very scary situation for so many of us. It’s comforting to know that our union reps have worked hard to get us the answers we need about the many unknowns ahead. My union is working to make sure we are safe while we continue to maintain buildings and grounds.

We are all in this together and I know that with the support of my union, we will come out stronger.