Jesse Ortiz with Calaveras students Photo by Gabriel Gonzalez

This story was written by Luis Garcia and Victor Sanchez.They are both in 7th grade at Calaveras School in Hollister. Photographer Gabriel Gonzalez took the photo of Luis and Victor. The article is part of BenitoLink’s Junior Journalism Project which is partially funded by United Way of San Benito County. 

 When you walk onto the beautiful campus of Calaveras School your first thoughts are probably not about who keeps it so clean and maintained.  Jesse Ortiz, lead custodian, has been  maintaining the campus for the past 30 years and is now meeting the second generation of families that are going through Calaveras while he is there.  

Meagan Avery, a third grade teacher at Calaveras, remembers Ortiz as the lead custodian when she a student at Calaveras Elementary School from 1996 to 2001. Her fondest memories of Ortiz on campus are that he would always have a big smile on his face and was very kind to everyone.   

Ortiz still enjoys his job and reports that the best part is that “in other jobs, if you make a mistake people get angry, but here everyone is always positive.” He thinks the worst part of his job is cleaning the restrooms and the “results” of sick kids.  You might think being a custodian would be boring, but he has had some exciting times.  He has captured possums and birds inside classrooms and many dogs running around campus. In his office he keeps a water bowl, dog food and a leash for all the dogs that wander onto campus each year. Probably the most exciting animal rescue was the wild pig on the playground a few years ago.  

Ortiz is from Morgan Hill, California where he grew up with his parents, and five siblings. He attended both Morgan Hill Elementary School and Live Oak High School where he graduated in 1977.  Ortiz raised his two sons and three daughters in Hollister, California.  

 Before he was a custodian, Ortiz worked at fixing fiberglass bolts and then as a truck driver.  The job he has enjoyed the most is being a custodian at Calaveras Elementary.  When Jesse was asked how his job has changed over the years he responded, “Well, by technology because when I started working there were no Walkie-Talkies so you had to walk to whoever you wanted to talk to, but now we have them. So it is much easier”.

Calaveras students would be surprised to learn that their quiet custodian becomes a drummer after work for his band, Macabra, which he plays in with his sons Jesse Jr. and Frank, who play the keyboards and guitar.  He has also played the drums for various Mexican Rock music bands throughout his life, and has performed with his father in restaurants, weddings, nightclubs and festivals.

Three decades is a long time to work anywhere, but Ortiz plans on working at Calaveras School for two to three more years. It will make teachers, students, and families happy to know that their custodian will be maintaining their school for a few more years to come.

Luis Garcia (right) is in 7th grade at Calaveras School where Science is his favorite subject.  He has attended Calaveras since 2nd grade.  He lives in Hollister with his parents and two brothers. He also likes to play soccer, and plays on the same team as Victor.

Victor Sanchez (left) is in 7th Grade at Calaveras School where Math is his favorite subject. He has attended Calaveras since 2nd grade. He lives in Hollister with his mom and likes to play soccer in his spare time.

(Portrait photo was taken by Gabriel Gonzales.)


Gabriel Gonzalez is 13 years old and a 7th grader at Calaveras School where he has attended school since kindergarten. He lives in Hollister with his parents and two brothers. His favorite subject is Math and he plays football in his spare time.