DAN GREEN RETIRES AFTER 40 YEARS OF ALWAYS ANSWERING THE CALL FOR KIDS
Dan Green is a first responder. His truck may not be red. It does not have flashing lights or a siren. Yet Green has been answering Lakewood’s public schools’ calls for help for 40+ years. He is retiring this month.
“This is what I will miss most. When I call, Dan always answers the phone,” said Green’s supervisor Dale Leach, Executive Director of Operations. “Whether is 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., when called Dan is always there to help.”
Even when a telephone is unavailable Green gets the job done, Leach said. During Labor Day weekend in the early 1990s the electrical grid blew at Lakewood Elementary School. Green knew how important it was to repair the system before students and staff started school the next week. This was before folks routinely had cell phones. Green drove out to Kayak Point where his supervisor, Fred Owyen, was camping with his family. “Dan told him the problem, how it needed to be fixed and asked for Owyen’s approval to get bids for the work,” Leach explained. Green spent the weekend overseeing the repairs and the system was back at full capacity when school started on Tuesday.
“Dan embodies what I believe the Lakewood community wants to be about – putting service to others above all else,” said Kim Caldwell, principal at Lakewood Elementary School. As one of Lakewood’s oldest schools, Lakewood Elementary still has some mechanical systems from the 1960s. Green admits to knowing a few tricks to resolve issues with them. Caldwell has benefited from his accumulated knowledge many times but more important than Green’s skills, she says, is his attitude. “Dan shows up with a sense of humor and a willingness to help,” she explained. “His friendly presence and knowledge will be greatly missed.”
Power, water, heat, or any number of other needs have been on his ‘to do’ list since 1980 when he was hired for his expertise as a craftsman and knowledge of the various trades. About 30% of maintenance activities are funded by local taxpayers through the school’s operating levy.
“Whether is 2 p.m. or 2 a.m., when called Dan is always there to help.”
— Dale Leach, Lakewood School District’s Executive Director of Operations
Green started working at age 14. His resume includes jobs in lumber mills and commercial roofing as well as service in the U.S. Army. There he honed his hydraulic and electrical skills. Shortly after military discharge he was hired by Lakewood School District. Only two schools existed then but within a year construction of Lakewood High School began.
Rewiring and digging are all part of Green’s problem solving
Some of Green’s strongest memories involve sewage. Runners from 40 schools were gathered at Lakewood’s stadium on a Saturday for the legendary Hole in the Wall cross country event. The pump system malfunctioned backing up debris on the field – near where the runners crossed the finish line. “We were all in a scramble and had to rewire the pumps to spit out the clog,” Green recalled about all that occurred to correct the problem.
He also remembers receiving a call late one afternoon from the local sewage system official. He told Green that the main line serving the schools was flooding a farmer’s field and the official was shutting down the controls. With long handled shovels Green and his colleagues dug a tunnel under the 172nd Street NE fog line to reach the line. Traffic was forced down to one lane. Even law enforcement got involved when a team member accidently tripped the shop’s security system when picking up a necessary part. Repairs were completed by 3 a.m. Green went home to shower and take a quick nap. Then returned for another day of serving the students.
Green has seen many changes over the years. New schools built, older schools modernized or added He has seen several improvements to the mechanical infrastructure. He remembers working for five different supervisors and seven district superintendents. “It’s been a good road” Green said with fondness.
Green saved student’s Graduation Day
Leach described Green as “all about problem solving”. Teacher and coach Jeff Sowards recalls a student inadvertently locking herself in the restroom during graduation festivities. Green unscrewed the vent on the lower portion of the door, crawled through, and disabled the lock. The student was able to join her classmates. Green replaced the mechanism, so the door once again functioned properly. An important task as it was the only women’s restroom available to those attending the ceremony.
“I’m in awe of how things change every year. I try to learn every day to be able to keep up.”
— Dan Green, Retiring Lakewood School District maintenance staff member
In addition to the improvement and expansion of school buildings, technology has had the greatest impact on his work. He has spent endless hours studying changes to the many operating systems needed for a school system to function. “I’m in awe of how things change every year,” he said. “I try to learn every day to be able to keep up.” Green is not shy about calling experts for help because he says, “you can’t get everything off of YouTube.”
“Dan is smart enough to know what he doesn’t know,” Leach added. “If he can fix it, he will. If not, he knows to call an expert.”
One of his first supervisors, Darrel Fitch, instilled in Green the importance of research and study. “I’d come to him with questions and every time he would say ‘read the manual’,” he remembered. “It forced me to learn more than I wanted sometimes,” Green confessed.
Of course, working in schools for so many years he has also seen changes in the students he serves. From varying fashions to some interesting hair styles, his quest has never changed. “I’m here to serve the kids,” Green explained.
Here to serve the kids
In fact, one year he served students in the classroom. The high school shop teacher had to resign mid-year leaving those students without an instructor. With emergency certification from the state, Green took over the class for the remainder of that school year. “That is the time that warms my heart the most,” he said of his career with Lakewood schools. Occasionally out in the community, he will still bump into students from that class. “They still call me Mr. G,” Green grinned. “We just made a strong connection.”
His woodworking skills are well known in Lakewood. He and his wife of 45 years Julie ran their own furniture restoration business in addition to their day jobs. Julie also worked for Lakewood schools. She was as a paraeducator helping children with behavior that interfered with their learning. They may restart it now that both are retired.
Green also built and sold several imaginative birdhouses at the old local grocery. He and Julie scoured garage sales and auctions for just the right additions to complement each birdhouse’s theme. Together they enjoy traveling to national parks and spending time with their close-knit family including three grandchildren and a great granddaughter.
40+ years of Green’s learning and experience will not easily be replaced. He has been systematically rolling over all his lists of contacts and techniques to remaining staff. He admits a lot of the knowledge is just in his head, but Green offers this advice to the team he is leaving behind.
“Read the manual,” he chuckled.
Other Lakewood School District employees retiring are Lane Hobach, 36 years; LeAnna Davis, 21 years; Diane Kelly, 18 years; Shelly Patterson, 29 years; Janet Wilson, 20 years; Wende Hilyard, 18 years.