Day School Nabs Potty Prize For Beautiful Bathroom

By Gil Kaufman

Published March 21, 2003, issue of March 21, 2003.
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The Yavneh Day School in Cincinnati likes to brag about its state-of-the-art facilities, its strong mix of secular and Jewish education and its excellence at preparing students for high school.

Which is all very impressive, but tell me, how are the bathrooms?

As of last week, like its students, Yavneh’s restrooms were award winning. At least the faculty lounge bathroom was.

The school finished fourth in the Cintas Corp.’s nationwide survey of bathrooms, “America’s Best Restroom.” “We’re really enjoying the attention, but we’re begging people to understand that what we really do is provide a quality education to our children,” said the elementary school’s principal, Susan Moore. Though flush with pride, Moore said the school’s top-five finish had more to do with its inspirational story than with the kind of razzle-dazzle employed by the Internet poll’s No. 1 restroom: the luxurious, reportedly $1 million lavatory at the Grand Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

When Moore joined the staff of the 400-student school in July, she immediately noticed that the staff lounge bathroom was, well, “Not very nice. It was pretty industrial and not very fresh. So, I said we had to do something about it.”

It didn’t take much to get the rest of the staff behind her on this commode crusade. “We looked at wallpaper books during lunch, and then I bought the wallpaper; middle school principal Judy Diekmeyer bought the paint; the registrar brought in a shelf and some silk flowers, and someone from the admissions office brought a wastebasket,” she said of the all-volunteer, no-budget effort. Scavenging floor tiles from a preschool renovation project was the piece de resistance, Moore said. When a staff member saw an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer announcing the contest, one of the school’s admissions directors nominated their handiwork for the prize, thinking their chances for potty posterity were slim.

With or without a prize, their rehab project brightened things up. A picket fence wallpaper border covered with flowers wraps around the tiny birdhouse-themed restroom, accented by a framed flower print, a high shelf with baskets of silk flowers and a bird house and a knickknack stand with shells, lotions and a few more flowers. A hand-painted ceramic tile above the toilet boasts inspirational words of wisdom, “Yavneh teachers do it with class…. Yavneh teacher do not splash!”

It wasn’t just the wallpaper, tile and wastebasket that made this bathroom shine, however. “We wanted the staff to come back and understand that we were saying, ‘We know how hard you work, and you deserve something lovely,’” Moore said.

It was that emotional connection that caught the eye of the contest’s sponsors, the Cincinnati-based industrial uniform and “restroom solutions” corporation, Cintas. “We wanted to shine a light on businesses that go above and beyond and make the restroom an enjoyable experience,” said the survey’s editor, Dan Cawley.

The panel of experts for the 2-year-old contest began with 1,000 entries, which they pared down to a top 10 after asking participants to plead their case. “Yavneh had a great story,” Cawley said. “It showed how people who run a business, even if it’s not about making a customer happy, it can be about making an employee happy. You don’t need a hugely elaborate restroom. Some little touches make it feel more like home and make it a more pleasant experience.”

Cawley said the scrappy Yavneh story reminded him of the previous year’s fifth-place finisher, a rural Virginia mom-and-pop Texaco gas station that went the extra mile to make their pit stop palatable. The top-five finish has guaranteed Yavneh a place in the Best Restroom Hall of Fame (www.thebestofusa.com), standing urinal-to-urinal with such luminaries as last year’s winner, the Victorian-themed bathroom at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind.

Since their looker loo has become a buzz topic around town, Moore said a steady stream of do-it-yourself groupies have dropped by to take a peek at their prize-winning powder room. “We’ve had requests of ideas from peers for their bathrooms at home,” Moore said. “A man who used to service our copy machine years ago saw an article in the paper and stopped by with his wife, who wanted to know where we got the wallpaper. Security officers and DARE officers who used to work here have also dropped in.”

And from the inside as well, pressure for a follow-up is mounting . “We have another bathroom that needs some work,” she said with a sigh. “I guess I know what I’m doing next summer.”






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