"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

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The insight of the men in gray uniforms: Custodians

Mike+Semmler%2C+LHS+lead+custodian+and+building+manager%2C+has+had+over+20+years+of+experience.+
Reese Duncan
Mike Semmler, LHS lead custodian and building manager, has had over 20 years of experience.

Over 20 years of experience, Michael Semmler was interviewed for the LHS head custodian position. In his second year, he built one of the many inspiring stories LHS holds. 

“Being in control of the whole building [sparked my interest in working for Lincoln]. I’m the head custodian and building manager,” said Semmler.

Principal Dr. Raeder may be in governance but a close second is Semmler. LHS has a total of 14 custodians; 10 work throughout the night and four during the day. Semmler ensures his employees are properly doing their job and regulates the mechanical units. Semmler clocks in at 9 a.m. and checks his emails for specific requests from teachers. Broken items in need of repair, cleaning spills and tackling bathroom issues are tasks on his usual to-do list. 

“Truck driving is mental and physical. This is more of a physical job. It’s not hard work, it’s busy work,” said Semmler. “All in all, I’m very happy with where I’m at and what I’m doing. I’ve been lucky in my life to have two careers, one as a truck driver and one as a custodian. Not many people are that lucky.”  

Semmler has not always been a custodian or a part of the Sioux Falls School District. After taking advice from his brother, Semmler headed on the road as a truck driver for over two decades. Many drivers experience prolonged hours of traveling, truck expenses and restricted time with family, especially during winter months when ice and snow are prone to accidents. Covering many miles and a series of stops, he ultimately arrived at his final destination, LHS. 

“The people I work with are fabulous, absolutely fabulous. Kids are great. I can’t say enough about the people that I work with, the administration, the teachers, the students,” said Semmler. 

Semmler does not single-handley keep LHS in place. Each worker has a responsibility that together sustains LHS, including the land scraper and engineer. South Dakota is privileged with an extra helping hand because certain states are incapable of affording it. Teachers, who spent years in college and additional training to guide children, are expected to fill two jobs. It is ideal that once they turn on their classroom light, they can begin preparing for their students.

 “It’s like water on a duck’s back. You gotta let a lot of things go. Don’t get caught up in what I call the drama of the day,” said Semmler. “That’s just the nature of the beast. You live with the fact that you’re working for the Sioux Falls School District which is a wonderful place to work but it has its ups and downs, just like any other business.” 

Custodianship can be seen as cleaning and preparation, but there is more depth in this line of work. Night shifts interrupting sleep schedules, reduced time with their social circle and weekend school events taking away personal time are factors that pose challenges. In Semmler’s case, his wife worked early mornings and Semmler late nights. They would cross paths and occasionally have supper but now he can enjoy his meals at home and spend time with his family. 

“Treat it like you treat your home,” said Semmler. 

Actions have consequences that reach outside ourselves; the LHS building can be evident. It is simple to enter the school, see the lights on, the bathrooms are functioning, classrooms are clean and floors are clear of litter for granted. Leaving behind clutter or writing on desks seems insignificant but being respectful is less to ask for. It is about treating LHS with the same level of care one would want for their belongings. LHS students heavily outweigh staff in numbers; together the small acts of kindness can make a difference. 

LHS recently celebrated custodian appreciation week with hung posters and cards, but custodians deserve more than one week each year. Every school day must be spent appreciating the men in gray uniforms. 

“We want people to come and see our building because this is the best place in Sioux Falls,” said Semmler. 

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About the Contributor
Reese Duncan
Reese Duncan, Editor-in-Chief
Reese Duncan is a senior, third-year staff member and an Online Editor-in-Chief for the Statesman. Duncan is also a member of the LHS oral interpretation team and considers herself a gift shop connoisseur. When she is not listening to “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” from NPR, you can find her playing with her dog, traveling or volunteering at the State Theatre. If you ever need a movie recommendation, she is the one to ask.
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