In addition to honoring exceptional teachers, the Foundation also loves to honor exceptional OPS staff. The Classified Employee Excellence Recognition Award (CEERA) program rewards non-certified employees of the Olathe Public Schools for outstanding service and excellence in their job performance. Nominees might include paraprofessionals, food service employees, secretaries, custodians, business office personnel, grounds maintenance crew members, or other support positions in the district. The Foundation was lucky enough to catch up with one of the most popular CEERA honorees (his video has 240 views on YouTube!) from the past year: Mr. Patrick.
TaPatrick Barbee, aka Mr. Patrick, is the lead custodian at Pleasant Ridge Elementary. His nomination packet came in with more than 20 letters, many of which were written by students and parents. Mr. Patrick does his job with such joy and love that everyone notices, and his presence is missed when he is not at school.
To keep his CEERA award a surprise, Pleasant Ridge Principal Krystal Actkinson told Mr. Patrick that the assembly he was setting up for was a Major Saver Discount Card assembly. Little did he know that the whole event was for him. When asked about the moment when he realized what was happening, he said, “I was joyful, very surprised. I thought I was dreaming for a moment. I felt loved.”
Mr. Patrick is part role model, part counselor, and a friend to students, parents, and staffers alike. “My motto is "Reach one, teach one." My job is to show good expectations and to be a good role model for our kiddos here,” he said.
A Pleasant Ridge teacher wrote in her nomination letter that Mr. Patrick will often “come to me when he notices a change in a child’s behavior and ask what he can do to help. He is a support for children who do not have a support at home by listening, talking with them, lending a hug when needed, or allowing a student to work beside him when a child needs five minutes out of the room.”
When Mr. Patrick talks about his job, it’s clear that he enjoys going above and beyond his custodial duties. “My favorite moments are dabbing in the hallway and just seeing the smiles. I love the interaction with the kids and parents. This job gives me a chance to show my ability, to interact with the kids on a different level. I truly love kids.”
A school is like a family for many students. But, a school community can also be a family for the adults who work there, too. Mr. Patrick said that at Pleasant Ridge, he felt like he gained a once-in-a-lifetime family. “I have been doing this for fifteen years and I have never had anything like that.”
Pleasant Ridge made this plaque to commemorate Mr. Patrick's special day.