Hows this for an idea in an era of budget crunches:
Use the high school custodian as a tour guide and charge admission. Really, who needs a mill levy?
High schools dont generally have official tour guides. If they did, Greg Butler has the credentials for the job. Hes done such work at Alcatraz Island and Dinosaur National Monument, and now, when needed, he serves as one at Durango High School.
He knows the place well from his five years as custodian there.
When the Class of 1960, which assembled here in mid-September for its 50th reunion, requested a guide for its visit to the new DHS, school officials hooked them up with Butler. Reunion Chairman Mike Elliott, a present-day Durangoan, says hes still hearing raves about the tour.
Annie (Edwards) Phillips says she was amazed at the size and opportunities offered at the school, opened in the mid-1970s. And she was impressed with Butlers knowledge and dedication.
I have to say that tour was one of the highlights of the reunion weekend, says Phillips, who came down from Boulder to join about 100 of her classmates, now in their late 60s. He really loves what he does. That was clear.
During a tour Tuesday of the high school, Butler talks about teamwork and focusing on the goals of the organization.
It really is a team and group effort, he says. Its important to recognize that.
With his background as a park ranger and guide, hes attuned to understanding the greater purpose and conveying that to an audience. Telling visitors what goes on at the high school how space is used, the improvements made with the 2004 bond money is not so dissimilar from leading them around Alcatraz, where you have to hit people with facts like the Birdman didnt really have birds there.
A couple of facts you need to know, he says as he begins our tour. The high school takes up 257,000 square feet, and the grounds include 20 acres.
There have been four major remodels. The last and biggest was with that 2004 bond money we voters passed for all 9-R schools.
There are around 1,200 students and 100 staff members using hundreds of rooms, 60 toilets and lots of heating, ventilating and air conditioning.
We tend to take care of what breaks, Butler says.
From the commons area just inside the main entrance, we head north into one of the newest wings, peeking into the ceramics room where pottery wheels await students.
We snake past students hurrying between classes in the west wing, step inside the auxiliary gym, complete with climbing wall, and stroll through an in-use workout room, another addition of the last few years.
The cafeteria isnt just for eating. Its a multipurpose room.
It gets reconfigured on a regular basis, Butler says.
The custodial staff is constantly tearing down and setting up tables.
A lot of what I do is schlep, he explains.
He also reads a lot I learn during our visit to the library which might explain why he uses terms such as schlep. There we chat with staff members Leigh Gozigian and Steve Powell about what the kids are reading these days (Somnambulist, Steampunk) and the new releases (but not Jonathan Franzens newest yet).
The 57-year-old describes himself as a fourth-generation Salt Lake City boy who didnt stick with the Mormon faith. He spent 14 years as a ranger for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. That includes his Edward Abbey job at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers and his winter of 1982 as an interpretive seasonal worker at Alcatraz, the former federal prison.
He and Winston Dines brought their child to Durango in 1992. Among other jobs, he has worked as code compliance officer for the city of Durango Planning Department. In 2005, he joined the DHS custodial staff, and he now is maintenance technician/lead custodian.
He does know the school inside and out, says DHS Activities Director Sheldon Keresey.
Butler says he sometimes feels like Radar OReilly, the company clerk on M*A*S*H whos always able to find an item in need. Butler is sort of a catch-all for people who need a task accomplished.
He calls himself a little cog in a system and lauds the other cogs who do their jobs with little or no recognition.
There are tens and tens of people who go unrecognized, he says as we stand south of the main entrance, the marching band audibly practicing for Fridays football game. Im not particularly exceptional. I could give you a list of people that I think of as certainly more exceptional than I am.
It takes the efforts and commitment of a lot of people to make something happen. Such as running a high school.
Its nearly 3:30 p.m., and soon the cafeteria will be filled with cheerleaders at practice. After that, desks will need to be moved back into place for the national arts honors society, then tidied up for tomorrows breakfast.
A normal day, lots of schlepping still to do.
johnp@durango herald.com. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.