By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
BRIDGETON — James Martin didn’t know what all the fuss was about when the focus was put on him at Cherry Street School just recently.
Describing himself as an “old country boy,” Martin has quietly done his job as a custodian in Bridgeton Public Schools for 38 years, making him the most senior custodian in the school district.
“I don’t know if you’re going to get much out of me,” Martin humbly told Front Runner New Jersey this month. As self-effacing as Martin is, one could almost forget that his job in this era of the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most critical of all positions in a school.
From 3-11:30 p.m., Martin goes about his business at Cherry School, cleaning classrooms, chairs and plastic desk petitions that keep students safe — room by room, floor by floor, desk by desk. In short, Martin daily defines the term “unsung hero” in all that he does.
“I do everything,” Martin said, admitting at times he has to be a jack of all trades. “If a toilet is stopped up, I have to unstop it. I do whatever needs to be done.”
In that important work that Martin does, students and staff can know that Martin takes it seriously. It’s not about just passing the time away doing as little as possible. For Martin, it’s about pride — pride in what he does that comes from a family work ethic.
“I like to do the job right, no matter what kind of pay I get,” said Martin, a native of Kankakee, Ill. “It’s about doing the job right. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I think it was just the way I was brought up. I do everything to the best of my abilities. I believe in being on time and just doing whatever I can do.”
Where everyone today is talking about the year of the “Great Resignation” as businesses struggle to find good employees — if they can find employees at all, Cherry Street School principal Terrence Spencer said he realizes how valuable Martin is to the school — and Bridgeton.
“If I could use one word to describe Mr. Martin, it would be dependable,” Spencer said. “He comes to work every day and always greets you with a smiling face. He is a total team player and we are blessed to have him here a Cherry Street School.”
Bridgeton Superintendent Dr. Keith Miles recognized Martin on his Facebook page.
“While at Cherry Street today, we paused to thank Mr. James Martin for his service to Bridgeton Public Schools,” Miles said.
Martin lived in California and Colorado along with Illinois before moving with his grandfather in Bridgeton. Here, he laid down roots, has been married for about 40 years and raised two children through Bridgeton Public Schools.
Away from Cherry Street School, he has two acres of land in the city he said he has “to stay on top of,” mowing and keeping clean with that same work ethic others praise him over.
As far as retirement — Martin says not so fast.
“I would like to put in another 10 years,” he said. “It’s day to day, you know. We’ll see how it goes but that’s my goal, at least another 10 years.”
Whatever more time Martin plans to clock in at Cherry Street School and Bridgeton Public Schools, what is assured is that he will be doing his job to the best of his ability with that work ethic pride handed down from his family.
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