One of Samo’s silent caretakers, Felipe Cueva, can be found every day after school, walking the halls of Samo’s technology building, working late into the night to keep Samo clean and running. Once he has repaired the damage done to the school that day, he will return home, coming back the next day to start all over again.
“I’ve worked as a custodian here for 13 years,” Cueva said. “It can be hard work, but I really like my job because of all the great students and teachers here.”
Before coming to Samo, Cueva worked with the city of Santa Monica, doing landscape design as well as working with the Parks and Recreation Department. Cueva said he decided to become a custodian because he was referred to the job by a friend.
“I enjoyed working for the city, but I really like working with the students and staff here,” Cueva said. “My friend at Edison told me how great working at the schools was. I was a substitute for other custodians at first, and I worked at many other schools.”
According to Samo Plant Manager Jeff Frazier, who is in charge of the custodians working for the district, Cueva is an exceptional employee because of the effort he puts into his job and the dedication he has to the school and district.
“My experience with Felipe has been one of a very dedicated employee who wants to do only the best for the school district and school,” Frazier said. “He never misses work, he’s always on time and he’s a great guy to have–I would want to have someone like him on my staff anywhere I work.”
Frazier said that Cueva established such a close relationship with the staff and students of the Technology Building, that when Frazier was planning to move him to a different building, he received a large amount of letters asking him to reconsider.
“I was planning on moving him, but after all the letters started flooding in, I had to move other people around to keep him in the Technology Building,” Frazier said. “Felipe is willing to do what it takes to keep people happy, and his teachers like him so much that they would send me letters not to move him because he gets along so well with the students and staff. That’s how much he’s loved around here.”
According to English teacher Gilda De La Cruz, the teachers in the Technology Building enjoy having Cueva as a custodian so much that they did not want to see him go.
“We were standing in the I-House office after it had been announced that he would be leaving, and we decided to write letters asking for him back,” De La Cruz said. “He always is dedicated to his work and is great to talk to. He can connect really well with students and teachers–one time I walked into a teacher’s classroom and [Cueva] was sitting there playing a student’s guitar. He is really friendly and an overall great person.”
Cueva said he enjoys working as a custodian, mainly because he enjoys interacting with the students at Samo and the sense of community that comes with working at a school.
“My favorite part of my job is you guys,” Cueva said. “This is my family. We all work together–the staff, students and I all are a community. I’m close with the staff but I’m also not, because this is work and I need to get my job done.”
Cueva says he is a family man. He was born in Mexico and is the youngest of 11 kids, eight boys and three girls. Cueva now his own family with a wife of over 30 years and four kids.
Cueva said in the future he plans to retire, although retirement will be bittersweet, he says.
“Soon I’ll have to retire and leave the school,” Cueva said. “Though this will be nice, I don’t want to leave this great school and its students behind.”