HILLSDALE, N.J. — After 28 years, Lance Perlman of New Milford retired as custodian extraordinaire from Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale.
He was more than his role.
Perlman, 61, shared his talents – including picture taking, telescope building, and chess playing – with staff and students alike.
That’s what students wrote in a tribute story in The Smoke Signal , the school newspaper.
Perlman's extracurricular contributions started early in his tenure when he worked the night shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
If it was the night of a basketball game, Perlman would use his dinner break to set up his telescope in the parking lot.
At first he drew a few people.
“Sometimes I would set it up for an hour and we would monitor the telescope,” Perlman added.
Then he came in on his vacation days to set it up at night. Board of education members came. And the principal.
“After a while, I’d draw a crowd of 20 or 30 people,” he said. “Then it became an expected thing.”
Perlman also displayed his artwork, including a rare banknotes collection.
He spoke to students, too, about his time as a news photographer in the 1980s and as a bridal photographer for the popular Glenmar studio in Lodi from 1984 to 2007.
"Lance once brought in his equipment and portfolio to share with my Advanced Photography class,” recalled Teacher Christine Back.
“Over the years, he has also brought telescopes that he designed and built himself," she added. "It is always great to see how the kids are inspired by someone who is truly a lifelong learner.”
Perlman said it was interesting he landed up working at a high school since he completed eighth grade before having to go to work to help support his family.
In short order, however, he passed a GED high school equivalency test before embarking on his multi-pronged career.
Early on, he said, he worked at a rubber company. He also did a one-year stint as a real estate agent before starting at the high school.
“People are saying I changed the institution in a minor way,” Perlman said.
“Now people expect more from staff who are not teachers,” he added. “So many people with a lot to offer shy away from sharing.”
Everyone has at least one thing they’re good at, Perlman said. That’s what they have to share.