Joe Mitchell, the custodial supervisor at Broughton High School, knows every nook and cranny of the school’s hallways and classrooms.
After 18 years there, he can tell just how to set up for the first day of school, for proms, for graduations – all the milestones in the life of a high school student.
He doesn’t usually stand on stage or make grand speeches, but he’s always there, sometimes seven days a week, to make sure everything runs smoothly.
This month, Mitchell hits his own milestone. With 29 years of service to Wake County schools to his name, he’s retiring.
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“I’ve been here so long, I know I’m going to miss it,” he said last week as he supervised the set-up for the annual family picnic on the school’s front lawn.
The feeling is mutual.
Students and staff say they’ll miss Mitchell’s presence in the halls and his dedication to making the school top-notch.
Francisco Zarate, a Broughton senior, said Mitchell helps students find ways to earn community service hours and teaches them how the school works.
“He’s awesome at always getting students involved,” Zarate said.
Mitchell said he wants visitors to walk into the school and feel at home.
“You’re welcome anywhere, and we’ll take care of you,” he said.
Mitchell, a North Carolina native, has lived in Raleigh for 42 years, where he and his wife reared five children. His youngest daughter went to Broughton, and each day they would make the trip to school together.
“It was good for me because I knew that she was going to behave herself,” he said with a chuckle.
Mitchell said one of the benefits of working at a school is getting to know so many students, who he hopes have learned a thing or two from him in firm but fair fashion.
“It’s better for me to be hard on you now than for life to be hard on you later,” he tells them when they act up.
During his years at Broughton, Mitchell has won an array of awards. He’s twice received Wake’s employee excellence award and is a member of Broughton’s Service Club, which only a handful of staff members are selected for each year. He also has trained dozens of new custodial employees throughout the school system.
Remy San Luis, who will take over Mitchell’s job, said he’s spent the last few months learning everything he can from Mitchell.
“It’s going to be tough to fill his shoes,” he said. “The man is a legend.”
In retirement, Mitchell plans to continue refereeing high school sports, which he’s done for years, and to do some traveling. But he can’t imagine he’ll spend too much time sitting around.
“I’ll take off a day or two to relax,” he said.
And then he added a sentiment that would surprise no one at Broughton: “But I will be staying busy.”