HOUSTON – Oct. 24, 2017 – Patrick Francis, head custodian at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, is famous for his warm smile, his friendly high-fives and fist-bump greetings as he goes about his work, and for always being ready to help whenever and wherever he’s needed around the Wunsche campus. Now he’s been recognized as the first recipient of the Employee Excellence Award, launched by the Board of Trustees and sponsored, in part, by the Spring ISD Education Foundation.
During a surprise ceremony at the school, Francis was honored for his day-in, day-out commitment to the campus and its students, and for his team spirit. Both were pointed out by Board of Trustees President Deborah Jensen as she spoke to the students and faculty gathered in the school’s cafeteria.
“We’re here for a very auspicious occasion,” Jensen said. “This is our first-ever Employee Excellence Award, and it’s going to a very special person, your head custodian, Patrick Francis. Not only does he handle his business with excellence – often doing the work of four people – but he also does it with a smile on his face, building relationships with everyone he passes.”
After making his way to the microphone, accompanied by loud cheers and applause from the hundreds of students filling the room, Francis offered his thanks to the students, fellow staff members, administrators and the board members for the award. Then he thanked one other person, who had recently passed away and couldn’t be there to share the day.
“There’s just one person missing from the picture, and that’s my mom,” Francis said. “She would really be happy for me to be receiving this honor. She would be so proud.”
After taking time for photographs and high-fives with students headed back to class, Francis reflected on his work at Wunsche and what keeps him going, even through difficult times.
“I’ve been at Wunsche eight years, and I’ve been with the district for 11 years, going on 12,” he said. “What I like about being here is the kids, because they really are the future. So if I can have an impact on their lives, that would have been a great thing, because they’re the ones who are going to go into the world and make a difference.”
Principal Andria Schur also thanked Francis, and praised him for his positive influence. “You can see from the students’ response how important he is to the kids,” she said. “He plays a major role on our campus, both through his work and through the servant leadership he models every day, all day.”
Francis was joined as a recipient of the new award by Jennifer Meehan, counselor at Ponderosa Elementary School, who was honored for her efforts on behalf of the local community during and after Hurricane Harvey, as noted by Board of Trustees Vice President Chris Bell during a ceremony in the school’s office on Tuesday.
“We know there’s a lot of work to be done following the storm,” Bell said, “and you’ve been doing a great job here at Ponderosa. Visiting the neighborhood, I’m amazed at the devastation, but also at how you and other Ponderosa staff are supporting the families. Thank you for all you’ve been doing.”
Meehan, with 21 years in the district and now in her ninth year at Ponderosa, said the praise belonged to the school’s whole team. “It’s a close-knit community,” she said, “and the staff here is just phenomenal. They know the kids like they’re their own family. It’s a team effort, it really is.”
Ponderosa Principal Shanna Swearingen said that Meehan had been instrumental in organizing the school’s response during and after the storm.
“Jennifer really is the calm during the storm,” Swearingen said. “Her heart is for our students and our community and she always puts their needs first. She is such an asset to Ponderosa, and her heart is as big as Texas.”
As recipients of the Employee Excellence Award, both Francis and Meehan received framed certificates and a special recognition pin, as well as a check for $100. They will also join the year’s other monthly winners in being considered for a $1,000 prize to be awarded at the district’s annual Employee Recognition Banquet at the end of the school year.
In discussing the idea for the new award, Trustee Justine Durant expressed her happiness at being able to recognize unsung members of the Spring ISD community.
“You know, we recognize principals of the year and teachers of the year,” Durant said, “but we don’t often have an opportunity for the board to recognize other staff for their work, and I thought this would be a great way to show how much we appreciate what they do. Because they’re as big a part of what happens in the success of our students as anyone.”