District Maintenance Supervisor Puts Student Needs First
09/08/2017
 Leo Ryza stands in front of GCCISD truck at Stallworth Stadium.
Photo by Carrie Pryor-Newman

District Maintenance Supervisor Puts Student Needs First

By Beth Dombrowa

It’s not like Leo Ryza wanted to be a superhero. It’s just that after 30 years with Goose Creek CISD in the maintenance department, he knew there would be things that had to be taken care of to restart school, so it was second nature to him to come to work every day, even after his own house took on a foot of water.

Ryza, who supervises the district’s building mechanics, waited until the last moment to leave his home in the Pinehurst area. Increasingly concerned about water coming into his home, he was sleeping downstairs in a recliner when his beloved Labrador Retriever woke him up by nudging at his hand about 1:30 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 29.

“When I stood up from the recliner, I was standing in about three inches of water,” he said.

By about 4 a.m., his house was flooded with about 12 inches of water. Ryza and a neighbor (Mike Knight, a teacher at Horace Mann Junior School) started loading up a boat his neighbor had managed to get, and by 10 a.m., they headed across Cedar Bayou, ending up at Fleming Road. Knight’s father was waiting there with a truck and took Ryza and his dog home. From there, Ryza was shuttled around between friends until he ended up at a friend’s house, where he is currently staying.

“I was displaced several times but there were actually some comical moments,” he said.

As soon as he could get back in, Ryza collected some of his prized possessions and, with the help of GCCISD co-workers, began cleaning his home and removing sheetrock. Like many others, Ryza had no flood insurance and there is a great deal of work to be done and items to replace – including brand-new appliances and cabinetry from a recent remodel.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “I’ve got good friends and a good team. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Despite the destruction to his home, Ryza knew there would be a good amount of work to do around the district, so he reported to work every day, supervising carpet cleaning, ceiling tile replacement, welding, painting and many other district needs.

“It wasn’t mandatory, but Leo is one of those guys who felt like he needed to be here,” said GCCISD Maintenance Director Charlie Miller.

It’s not easy to sleep with so many things on his mind, so Ryza starts each morning by returning home to check on his house and move fans. Then he arrives at work, usually puts in a full day and returns home to work on his house until about 9:30 p.m.

“I wasn’t ordered to return to work, but this place has been good to me for 30 years,” he said. “It’s important for us and this community to get the district back up and running. It’s our job to give the students and staff the best possible learning and teaching environment we can. We’re here for the students.”