The term caretaker isn’t used much anymore, at least not when it comes to buildings.
Today, caretaker is more likely to refer to someone caring for someone old or fragile, coming to the home and doing what can be done to keep body and mind together, to do what is possible to get another day and another and another.
Don Blake’s official title, the one they use on the Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District website, is facilities director. Over the years, the title has been a little different here and there. Sometimes he has been referred to as head of buildings and grounds. Depending on what someone needs him to do, they might tweak his description or his department’s name a bit. Maintenance? Sure. Property? OK.
But caretaker? It might be the most appropriate word for him.
For decades, Blake has been the one to nurse the district’s buildings into health, or as close to health as they can get. In recent years, he has seen three schools retired. On Monday, he will see two of them sold at auction. They were relics of previous need, buildings that survived long enough to have people argue over whether they could still be used to teach children, and Blake is the one who made sure they lasted that long.
He also nursed buildings into being, with the birth of the new middle school, the new Philipsburg Elementary and the addition at Osceola Mills Elementary. And now he is retiring. As of June 30, the schools of P-O will have someone else to take care of their aches and pains and help them make it through the winter.
When you think about the people who make education possible, you usually think of this teacher, that principal. Maybe a librarian, or the lunch lady you saw every day in the cafeteria. But as important as all of those people could be, few of them affected every day of every year. At P-O, the man who made it physically possible for classes of students to make it from finger-painting in kindergarten to crossing the stage to collect a diploma has been Blake.
Enjoy your retirement, caretaker.
Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.