Newark School Board Celebrates Its Custodian Pipeline for Students with Disabilities

By  Staff Writer at  June 1, 2023


In 1989, the Walking the Path pilot program was developed to transition students with special needs at John F. Kennedy (JFK) High School into custodial worker roles in the Newark Board of Education. The first students that graduated from JFK and hired for full-time roles as custodial workers were Dean Armstrong, Brian o/Neal, and Stacy Kelly. These new custodial workers and former students took great pride in cleaning and maintaining their alma mater.

Over the years, this pilot program has expanded to provide more students with the opportunity to graduate from District schools and receive training in boiler operations and grounds maintenance. Thus far, 19 students were enrolled in the Walking the Path pilot program in which 15 are permanent employees (13 custodial workers and 2 custodians). Additionally, students have also obtained a low pressure boiler’s license from the State of NJ Department of boiler and vessel compliance. The most widely recognized student in the program was Wali Thomas who is now the Director of Custodial Services at NBOE

Currently, Director Thomas is in communication with Principals and Social Workers at Central High School, New Jersey Regional Day, John F. Kennedy, American History High School, Barringer High School and George Washington Carver to discuss ways to not only hire students within the Facilities Department, but also ways to bring former graduates back to the Newark Board of Education.

The District understands the importance and impact of providing pathways to success for all students and helping students excel despite adversities.