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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Vegas vacation: Waterford custodian places in national contest

    Quaker Hill Elementary School custodian William “Mr. Billy” Krajewski walks into the gym for a surprise Las Vegas-themed assembly Tuesday, May 14, 2024. He was honored for finishing in the top 3 in the CINTAS National Custodian of the Year competition and will be going to Las Vegas. The students waved checker flags because Krajewski is a NASCAR fan.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Quaker Hill Elementary School custodian William “Mr. Billy” Krajewski shakes hands with Principal Christopher Discordia after arriving in the gym for a surprise Las Vegas- themed assembly Tuesday, May 14, 2024. He was honored for finishing in the top 3 in the CINTAS National Custodian of the Year competition and will be going to Las Vegas. The students waved checkered flags because Krajewski is a NASCAR fan.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Quaker Hill Elementary School students wave checkered flags during a Las Vegas- themed surprise assembly for their custodian William “Mr. Billy” Krajewski.He was honored for finishing in the top 3 in the CINTAS National Custodian of the Year competition and will be going to Las Vegas. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Quaker Hill Elementary School custodian William “Mr. Billy” Krajewski reacts to the appearance of physical education teacher Ken Pancoast dressed as Elvis Presley during a surprise Las Vegas-themed assembly Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Krajewski was honored for finishing in the top 3 in the CINTAS National Custodian of the Year competition and will be going to Las Vegas The students waved checkered flags because Krajewski is a NASCAR fan. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford ― At 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, Quaker Hill Elementary School Custodian William “Mr. Billy” Krajewski was near Town Hall when he got a frenzied phone call from Principal Christopher Discordia.

    “Where are you? There’s something going on. We need you,” he asked Krajewski, who has worked for 30 years in the school system.

    Krajewski, 61, thought the call might have been to clean up after a sick student. But when he arrived at the school and popped his head inside the gym doors, there were 370 students looking at him and waving checkered racing flags in their hands.

    The school had arranged the surprise assembly to honor Krajewski for finishing in the top three in the CINTAS national “Custodian of the Year” competition.

    For being in the top three, he won a trip to Las Vegas and a $1,000 check from CINTAS, a company that provides uniforms, cleaning supplies, towels to schools and businesses. Krajewski, a NASCAR fan, will also get to tour the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

    When he entered the gym, students and faculty members wearing Mr. Billy T-shirt erupted in an ovation. A “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign stood next to the podium.

    “That was amazing. ... Seeing them all with the racing flags,” Krajewski said. “As soon as I came in, I was like ‘Oh my God. What’s going on here?’”

    Christiny Betsch, a marketing manager from CINTAS, said she’d seen a lot of celebrations for the award, but none quite like this.

    “This was the first time Elvis has made an appearance for one of the events,” Betsch said about physical eduation teacher Ken Pancoast, who impersonated “The King” for the assembly.

    “This was also the first time there was a song written for our winner. So I just think like yeah, the energy that the school brought was awesome, and you can tell just from the video and stories they played just how much they love Mr. Billy,” she added.

    As she waved goodbye to Krajewski after the assembly, she smiled and told him, “I’ll see you in Vegas.”

    “I don’t know how (the award) will affect me, but I don’t see how my smile can get any bigger,” Krajewski said. “But it probably will, with the kids. They just keep me laughing all the time.”

    Krajewski is revered by the school’s students, who come to him at lunchtime with smiles, jokes and to help with cleaning the cafeteria.

    “I just try to return the favor, you know? With bringing a little joy to their day, as well, because they make it a pleasure to work with them,” he said.

    After the assembly, Krajewski checked his phone for the time. It was shortly before 11 a.m.

    He had just 20 minutes to move the chairs before he had to be in the cafeteria to clean up after lunch.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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