The first person at H.D. Stafford Middle School every day is Jagraj Hari, known to the staff and students as Jag.
The custodian opens up the building at – or before – 6:30 a.m., and does the first once-over of the grounds for anything that needs cleaning up, whether it’s broken glass or a bit of trash on the property.
When the staff and then students come in later in the day, Hari is there to offer a smile, a kind word, a hand with anything he can help with, and and those who work with him say he’s made the entire school a better place.
“Jag exudes love, kindness, and pure joy to everyone he encounters,” said Erin Favero, a Grade 7 teacher who nominated Hari as someone who has gone Above and Beyond in the Langley School District.
“From a school perspective, your custodian is kind of the heart of the school,” said Principal John Hantke. “He goes above and beyond his job.”
When told he had been selected for part of the Above and Beyond series, Hari said he was very proud to be chosen.
Hantke and Favero said that Hari is always reaching out to talk to the students, help them out where possible, all while keeping the school clean as the day custodian over the last two years.
“You can see his smile on his mask,” said Hantke.
Day custodians became a fixture at all Langley schools during the tough years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when extra intensive cleaning of surfaces was instituted to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
But the custodians have become popular in multiple schools in the district, both for practical reasons that having on-site custodial help during the school day is very useful, and as members of the wider school community. In the first year the Langley Advance Times ran the Above and Beyond series, another custodian, Troy Tardiff at Shortreed Community Elementary, was among those profiled.
Hari has been with the Langley School District since 2012, working at Alice Brown Elementary and as the head custodian at Alex Hope Elementary, among other positions.
For most of his career, he worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift that was standard for most custodians, who came in to clean the school only after the final bell had rung for the day.
He said he’s enjoyed the shift to working daytime., allowing him to meet people, including the kids at H.D. Stafford.
“I like everybody smiling,” Hari said.
He said he knows everyone has busy lives, and he tries to joke a bit, to share some excitement with people he encounters. He said a school should be a good place for education.
Ultimately, he said he personally always tries to be positive, avoids getting upset, and stays calm.
He noted he sometimes chides kids for swearing if he hears it in the hallways.
A Cloverdale resident, he and his wife have three children, daughters aged 25 and 23, and a son who is almost 17 and is soon to graduate.
He said he likes being busy, and will sometimes come to work about 10 minutes early so that he doesn’t have to rush too much through his rounds of cleaning.
Hari said he loves a challenge, and the last few years have had plenty of them.
That’s one of the things Hantke said has made having Hari in the school special.
Throughout the pandemic, when there were plenty of reasons to be stressed, Hari was always there with a smile on his face.
Now that he’s working days, and able to interact more with his fellow staff members, he’s formed a real bond at Stafford.
“I would like to stay here,” Hari said. “I want to retire from this school.”
Favero said she nominated Hari without telling him, and it was a surprise when he learned he had been named one of Langley’s Above and Beyond profiles.
“I think he’s extremely humble,” Favero said.
After going outside for a photo in front of the school, Hari made sure that the umbrella he was using was dry before heading back into the school. After all, keeping things clean was his responsibility.
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