JANE STARWOOD PHOTO
Mattituck High School janitor Rodney Shelby, third from left, can often be seen driving the doorless and roofless pickup the school uses as a yard car. The Class of 2010 dedicated its yearbook to him because of his ‘positive outlook’ and ‘friendly and cheerful demeanor,’ among other things. He’s surrounded by some of the seniors who voted him in and yearbook adviser Barbara Smith, fourth from right.
With graduation only days away, janitor Rodney Shelby is busy congratulating and consoling restless seniors at Mattituck High School — and cleaning up their pranks without complaint.
“We put hay bales in the senior hallway this week, and all the other janitors got mad, but Rodney didn’t care,” said senior Ryan Wesnofske. “He just cleaned it up. Rodney never gets mad at us for all the stupid things we do.”
For his work ethic and cool and cooperative demeanor, the class of 2010 dedicated their yearbook to Mr. Shelby — the first time a non-educator has ever received the honor.
“Rodney has made a major impact on the lives of Mattituck High School students,” reads the dedication. “His positive outlook is demonstrated by his genuine care, interest, and concern for the students and staff. Rodney’s friendly and cheerful demeanor is contagious … His integrity is a model for all to follow.”
Though he lives in Greenport and coaches basketball at the high school, Mr. Shelby, 41, says he feels like a “true Tucker” now.
“There’s nothing but love here,” he said.
Mr. Shelby has worked at the school for 12 years and said he never expected the dedication. After it was announced at a pep rally last Thursday, he did laps around the gym, high-fived everyone and bear hugged Superintendent James McKenna and twirled him around, breaking his sunglasses in the process.
“Years ago I would have said, ‘No, you’re crazy.’ I would have never believed it,” Mr. Shelby said of the dedication on Friday. “But now, it is a good feeling.”
Mr. Wesnofske and other seniors lead the charge in the beginning of the year to convince everyone in their class to vote for their favorite janitor.
“Every year, we give it to a teacher,” Mr. Wesnofske said. “So I tried to convince everyone to do something different. Rodney’s been here forever.”
“He’s always got a smile on his face, driving around that car with no doors,” said senior Kenny Black, referring to the beat-up pickup with no roof or doors that the maintenance staff uses as a yard car. “He’s just a great guy to have around.”
Mr. Shelby’s co-worker Billy Mulrain described Mr. Shelby as “amazing with the kids” and well-deserving of the dedication. Principal Shauwn Petretti echoed those sentiments, saying that the maintenance staff is an important part of students’ overall education.
“When they talk about the culture of Mattituck, it’s a very special place, and our maintenance crew is all part of that,” Mr. Petretti said. “It’s like a family –and our grounds people take care of this place as if it is their own house.”