Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Eastside Elementary's head custodian earns Hernando school honor

Charles Burnett is active in several community groups, including the NAACP and Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge 1270 in Brooksville.

PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE | Special to the Times

Charles Burnett is active in several community groups, including the NAACP and Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge 1270 in Brooksville.

BROOKSVILLE — Charles "Kojack" Burnett's main goal every single day seems to be making everybody he meets happy. That may be part of the reason he was selected as this year's Hernando County school district School Related Employee of the Year.

The other part is the work he does as Eastside Elementary School's head custodian.

"I nominated him," said the school's assistant principal, Heather McCarty. "He is just phenomenal, and he has a heart of gold. He truly does. And he is very involved in the community. I have seen him do things for people, help people tirelessly and he always says, 'I just want to make people happy' and he means it."

Mr. Kojack, as he is known by the students, has been at Eastside for 22 years and has been head custodian for 15. He has been the school-level School Related Employee of the Year three times — in 2002, 2007 and again this year.

He says his nickname, "Kojack," comes from the fact that "too many people can't say Charles, so you have to go with something else."

As for his duties, he said No. 1 is safety. His job, he explained, is to keep things working perfectly, maintaining the complex as a good working environment.

He gets up in the morning, he said, to go to the school and make people happy. He confesses he cannot do it alone. He works with other staffers as a team and has another source of assistance.

"You've got to have the Greater Being to help," he said.

Rounding out the man is his community work. He is a member of NAACP, South Brooksville Development, the Black Educator Caucus and Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge 1270 in Brooksville. He is the first African-American president of the Hernando County school workers union and is also involved in local politics.

A person can't work someplace for 22 years without some anecdotes, and Burnett has a few of those. His most memorable story was the time a student somehow got a shoe stuck in a tree. Burnett climbed the tree and retrieved the shoe, but the branch broke, and he fell and broke his arm. He still carries the scar.

But that's okay with Mr. Kojack.

"I wanted to make sure that child went home with that shoe," he said.

"He's a good guy," McCarty said.

Eastside Elementary's head custodian earns Hernando school honor 12/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 2:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102