Inside ECS – Ken West, West Side
Ken West is the head custodian at West Side Middle School, but he has never seen it as any regular job. “Lots of people could have this job and treat it like that – a job, a paycheck – but it’s more to me. It’s a great, fun environment. I see my role at West Side as a career and I know that I’m part of a family.”
As a member of the West Side family, Ken’s time at school extends well beyond his normal work day. He enjoys attending West Side events – everything from basketball to band – and working alongside students on community service projects, and he even travels to away games and events. He’s also found a special place in being a strong male role model to kids in the transitional time of middle school.
“Kids know they can be realistic with me, and I will be realistic back with them. We are all human. They see me in the school, and then supporting them at events. It really means something to kids to see someone support them in all they do.”
Students at West Side who are serving detention or in-school suspension are also presented with a unique opportunity – work alongside Ken in exchange for their time.
“It’s amazing to take a student who is loud and disruptive in class, and put them in the position of helping clean the school. They’re quiet, they work hard, and then sometimes they open up to me. I had one student who did a great job with helping me, then afterward asked if she could run on the track for a few minutes. I was stunned at how fast she was, so I timed her and had her meet with the track coach. She’s on the track team now, and doing well. Our counselors do an incredible job here, but sometimes students need another safe person to talk to.”
It’s the family atmosphere at West Side that keeps Ken so engaged in what he does.
“The teachers here are all phenomenal. I see it every day, all of them – every, single one of them – is willing to do anything for kids. When we say ‘all-in’ it’s not lost on us. Every person at West Side is all-in.”
One of Ken’s favorite all-in West Side moments was when he was tasked with organizing the students into a giant W and S formation on the soccer field to show off their West Side PRIDE t-shirts. He was given less than two hours to figure out the game plan and was not allowed to use spray paint. Working with other custodians and a math class, they were able to use string and create the outline in time for the student formation.
Outside of West Side, Ken enjoys spending time with his family. He especially loves to travel on cruises – he has been to 15 countries. He loves to see other cultures and show his children about life in other cultures.
Ken is currently reading: Ken says he isn’t a huge reader – he prefers to learn hands-on. When he does read, he prefers magazines and subjects like travel and world wars.