By Ryan O’Connell
Arts & Features Editor
At 4 p.m., it’s business as usual for Framingham State University.
Students might be attending classes, preparing for dinner, or getting started on upcoming assignments. Professors could be in the middle of a lecture, holding office hours, or getting ready to head home.
But for campus maintainers, it’s a shift change.
Maintainers - donning red-collared shirts - are recognizable by anyone familiar with the sound of clattering keys, rustling trash bags, and the scraping of plastic wheels rolling across the floor - be it in Dwight Hall, the McCarthy Center, or even in one of the residence halls.
Beatrice Cabral and Valcirene Cronin are just two of the University’s 49 maintainers who help provide a clean, healthy learning environment by cleaning classrooms, emptying trash cans, and performing other janitorial duties every day.
Cabral, who maintains a section of the first and second floors in Dwight Hall this year, said she works five days a week from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., and enjoys the work. “I like what I do,” she said.
She said she has been a maintainer at the University for 11 years, and was hired after she was laid off from a 25-year manufacturing career with the Bose Corporation in Framingham.
Cabral said she enjoys working in Dwight Hall, and added they are all given random building assignments every September, so she’s had experience working in every building.
She said she appreciates the consistency and routine she has at work, and especially likes working in classroom buildings like Hemenway because of the learning she gets to see firsthand.
Cabral said she thinks the University and its members are thankful for the work maintainers do.
“I think students appreciate us. The faculty always thank us. We like it when students say ‘You did a good job.’ We want to hear that,” she said.
Valcirene Cronin works in the McCarthy Center, Sunday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight, and cleans the fourth and fifth floors, the restrooms, and the daycare center.
Cronin said she’s been a maintainer for four years, and was a housekeeper for 20 years before coming to Framingham State. She said she enjoyed working as a housekeeper, but likes having a slower-paced job now that she’s older.
“I did clean four, five houses a day,” she said. “I did have a helper, but I’m older [now]. I’m 62 years old, and I needed something more relaxed.”
She said she has worked in every building, too, but doesn’t have a favorite. She added the work is mostly the same, and always has enough to do, which keeps her busy.
Cronin said she is originally from Brazil, but moved to the United States after learning about potential job instability in the company she was already working for. She said she didn’t know anybody in the U.S., aside from a friend who had been trying to complete the visa.
“I decided to move to the United States. I didn’t know how to say ‘hi’ or ‘bye’ in English, I didn’t know nobody here,” she said. “I had a friend - she tried to take the visa many times. I think five, six times - she never got it.
“I waited to take my visa, I got it. First try, I got it,” she said.
Cronin said she also likes being a maintainer because of the learning environment she works in and the relationships she’s built through it.
“I like my friends. I like [to] see people, see students learning something, because I don’t really speak English very well, but every single day I learn something different,” she said.
Cronin said her work also gives her a few funny stories.
“Something bad [happened] at the library when I was working on Sunday,” she said, taking out her phone. “The recycling can has poop over there. … I think I have a good picture.”
Lucia Carneiro and Maria Goncalves are best friends of almost a decade - a relationship fostered while working alongside each other on campus.
Carneiro works from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has been a maintainer for over 18 years. She said the work is manageable, and has worked in almost every building.
She said she started to work at FSU due to a friend’s referral and has since made more friends at work. She said she and Goncalves have been friends for about 10 years. “Best friends, like sisters,” she added.
Carneiro said she feels respected by the campus community, even though sometimes people aren’t in the best moods.
Carneiro said the toughest part of being a maintainer is when there’s heavy snowfall on campus. She said they’re required to come in if the snow crew needs help, and her commute from Milford is worse with the poor weather.
She added maintainers need to come to campus in poor weather when they’re asked to, even if the University is closed to students and professors.
“We tried to work from home, sit on the computer and sweep from there - but it didn’t work,” she said.
Carneiro said the maintenance supervisor, Joe Bairos, has made snow days easier for the maintainers in the past. She said Bairos once called her and other maintainers into work, who arrived to see most of the shoveling already done for them - all done by Bairos.
Maria Goncalves works from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has been a maintainer for over 19 years. Before working at FSU, she did manufacturing for General Electric in Westborough.
She said when her old job closed its doors, she began work as a maintainer with a friend’s help - now her husband and the father of their two adult children.
Goncalves said she’s worked in almost every building, except for Corinne Hall Towers, and liked O’Connor the most since it was the first building she ever worked in.
She said most of her work involves cleaning the bathrooms, emptying trash, and sweeping, but also includes physical labor like swapping light bulbs.
Goncalves said she originally liked computer manufacturing more, but being a maintainer has grown on her. She added she feels “very much” respected at FSU.
She said, like Carneiro, snow is her least favorite part of the job. “And especially since now I’m old,” Goncalves said. “No you’re not,” Carneiro quickly responded.
Goncalves said she appreciates Bairos, who has helped her in the past with tasks such as replacing light bulbs, and advocated for the inclusion of mini-fridges in every building, so maintenance workers could keep food and drink in the building.
Daniel Giard, executive director of facilities, said the maintainers’ jobs are a lot of hard, important work.
“Just for health and safety, it’s very important to have the maintainers here,” he said.
Giard oversees Joe Bairos, the University’s maintenance supervisor - Bairos said he’s responsible for the work assignments and day-to-day operations involving maintainers, and knows many of them on a personal level.
Bairos said he worked with several of the current maintainers on other jobs in different countries, and personally recommended some of them for work here. Giard added a majority of the maintainers are from Brazil and Portugal.
Bairos, who’s been with the University for 16 years, said he enjoys the work he does at Framingham State due to its consistency.
“It’s a job I’ve been doing for, I’d say, 40 years. And that’s basically what I do every day for seven days a week,” he said.
Bairos added he works an average of 60 hours a week, with it increasing to 80-hour weeks if there’s any heavy snowfall. He said his long hours are spent ensuring everything the maintainers are responsible for is accomplished, and so the campus can function as expected for students and faculty.
Giard added Bairos often has to deal with call-outs, and said he currently has five maintainers off work due to injuries.
Giard said he thinks Bairos and the maintainers all feel a sense of accomplishment in seeing a job well done and a clean campus.
He said, “They work very, very hard, and the end result is he [Bairos] can go into any building and then see how the floors shine, the walls are clean, the bathrooms are clean - a sense of pride in all the work that they do.
“And he should be proud of that, because he actually oversees that part of it,” Giard said.
Giard and Bairos both said they feel the work facilities and the maintainers do is appreciated, and always take the chance to communicate that appreciation to the maintainers themselves.
“We get quite a few letters from different people, maybe parents that are coming in, seeing the campus for the first time - we actually just got one from a parent that came in and said that the campus looks beautiful, inside and out,” Giard said.
“I think it was a compliment to the maintainers of the work they do,” he added. “We try, as managers, to instill in them that it is appreciated.”
Giard said he appreciates the work Bairos and the maintainers do, too, and said their dedication helped prevent a large amount of water damage across campus during a February cold snap.
“If it wasn’t for the maintainers being here, led by Joe - because he was here, it was on Saturday - we would’ve had a lot of water damage, because we had a lot of heating coils that froze and split,” Giard said.
“As soon as these lines ended up breaking, they were there. Boom. Right on top of it,” he added.