Operations and Facilities
Acorn Woodland Elementary
Carolyn Major, Custodian at Acorn Woodland Elementary, has many joys in her life including the work she began at OUSD in 1998.
That year, she began volunteering to clean as a member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at her daughter’s school, Lafayette Elementary.
“All of the sudden I got offered this position” said Carolyn, a Louisiana native. “The supervisors came one day we were having a PTA dinner and asked if I wanted to work there. I wasn’t working at the time, so I said yes.”
Carolyn is certain that her choice to work with the District was “the right thing” for her, as cooking and cleaning up are some of her favorite activities and just a few of the reasons why she was named a 2016-17 OUSD Classified School Employee of the Year and received Honorable Mention during the Alameda County Classified School Employee of the Year selection process.
“I like mingling with a diverse group of people and the Latin American families,” Carolyn said. “I’m picking up a bit of Spanish and I introduce them to things about my culture. I get to sample a lot of different foods at parties and I share some of my dishes with them too.”
Originally from Baton Rouge, she moved to San Francisco at an early age where she completed school. Carolyn then moved to Oakland, “raised two beautiful daughters as a single parent” - graduates of McClymonds and Oakland Tech - and now has a grandson.
“Since becoming a grandmother, I don’t go out like I used to but I still love dancing and music,” Carolyn said, quick to point out that she’s still a regular at the Oakland Art and Soul and Pride festivals each year.
Working at OUSD is a source of pride for Carolyn, who is on the executive board of her union, AFSCME local 257. She sees the way her school’s appearance “affects the learning environment” and feels that “every student deserves to enter a clean classroom.” She puts in extra work at school to ensure that “each classroom is presentable every morning” and sees that the care she takes transfers to the children.
“The students understand that what I’m doing is important for them as well. They come and report things to me, and I tell them that I’m proud of them it. I’ve seen that they’re more aware of not littering because they see me picking up trash everywhere. The kids take pride in their school and that consciousness extends into their homes” she observed.
To Carolyn, the bottom line is “they respect me and I respect them.” She sees all the students as essentially good, “even the ones that act out the most. They just need a little love and if you show it, then everything changes. I always tell them ‘don’t feel alone, there’s always someone you can talk to.’” She also shows her love staff and teachers by sharing some of her signature dishes such as curry chicken, barbeque, pasta dishes and soul food -“New Orleans style, of course!”
“To me every day is special,” she said. “There are always unexpected things that come up but I just maneuver around them.” The impact on students keeps her going.
“The way I look at it is, let’s take care of these babies now because these babies are going to take care of us in our old age,” Carolyn said.