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The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

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Unsung Heroes of Western: Richard McLernan

Getting to know the cafeteria and custodial workers that make our school run.
McLernan+stands+in+the+caafeteria+just+after+the+breakfast+rush
Credit: Maria Kinnan
McLernan stands in the caafeteria just after the breakfast rush

Richard McLernan wakes up every morning, excited to go to his job. His favorite part of the day is getting to work with the exceptional staff in the cafeteria and getting to interact with the students at lunchtime. McLernan has managed the cafeteria at Western for the past 18 years and doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.  Since 2006, he has been baking muffins and serving up delicious food for both students and staff to enjoy.  

Having been here for so long, he knows the ins and outs of the kitchen, as well as the changes it has undergone in the past couple of years. When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit and the student body was no longer in school the cafeteria workers never stopped serving food to students. “I never took any time off from it. We were loading buses and sending food to homes. We had a time for a while where families would come and pick up the meals out front.”

Even though they were still making food, employee turnover created struggles in the kitchen.  McLernan says it has been difficult finding people to fill in positions, where there are nine total, they currently have six employees working in the cafeteria.  

With the shortage of employees, the cafeteria has had to cut lunchtime favorites, like the grab-and-go station.  The grab-and-go, which had a hotline and a refrigerator, was a station where students could take pre-packaged lunches made by the cafeteria, like chicken tenders or salads. “Since we can’t open up that room, that’s why we have the vegetarian line,” says McLernan.

Despite difficulties, new options have been added to the cafeteria line, like the vegetarian line, which started last year. It has been hugely successful, offering items such as garden burgers and veggie quesadillas. McLernan said, “We probably have 25 or 30 people buy [from the line] every day.”

Another fan favorite is the coveted breakfast muffins, which are a preferred food McLernan likes to make. “My favorite food to make is the muffins,” said McLernan, “I find making the muffins relaxing. It’s a Zen thing.”

When asked about the secret to the muffins, McLernan refuses to tell, saying “If I could tell you it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it?”

Before working at Western, McLernan worked as a food salesman, where he would go to schools and companies and sell food to them.McLernan said, “That was an interesting job, but I got tired of it.”

McLernan started working for Albemarle County Public Schools as a district manager, and then took an opening here as a cafeteria worker because it’s close to home. He said, “I live up on the mountain about five minutes away, so it’s easy to get here.”

Past Muffins, one of the other highlights of Mclernan’s job is listening to music while prepping for meals. He said, “We get two radio stations, one’s country and the other one’s oldies. […] Of course, we sing along, […] I like the oldies station better. I’m a rock and roller from way back.”

McLernan is a vital part of the cafeteria running smoothly, which serves students delicious food for the most important meals of the day.  Without McLernan, Western wouldn’t have some of it’s most iconic foods.

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About the Contributor
Maria Kinnan
Maria Kinnan, Assistant Editor
Maria is a junior and this is her second year of journalism. Outside of writing articles, Maria is on the crew team at WAHS and enjoys baking and hiking outside of school. Her favorite artist is Taylor Swift, and her favorite book is Bone Gap.
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