Sacramento, California - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today recognized six outstanding classified school employees for their contributions and dedication to California's public school students.
"Our schools would cease to function without the classified employees who keep them clean and safe, who make sure our students get to school and receive the proper nutrition once they are there, and who contribute to an overall positive school culture and caring environment," Torlakson said. "Our 2016 Classified School Employees of the Year represent the very best of the best. I applaud them and thank them for their important service to California's children and families."
The annual program honors six outstanding classified school employees from the following categories: Child Nutrition; Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities; Office and Technical Support; Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance; Support Services and Security; and Transportation. This year's recipients were chosen from among 107 nominees.
The 2016 Classified School Employees of the Year, who will be honored by Torlakson at a luncheon May 16 in Sacramento, are: (Information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms.)
Child Nutrition: Michelle McClain, Head Cook, Turtle Bay School, Redding School District, Redding, Shasta County (5 years in current position)
Mrs. McClain is one of the first smiling faces students see when they arrive at Turtle Bay School for breakfast in the morning. She seemingly knows every student's name. A positive, can-do attitude infuses her work and plays a significant role in keeping the school nutrition program running smoothly. Mrs. McClain and her team prepare breakfast and serve five lunch periods each school day. She is customer-service oriented, open to new menu items and to the changing needs and tastes of students. She counsels students to make healthy food choices and looks for ways to replace sugar with fruit and reduce sodium. She models life-long learning by taking classes at the local community college—bettering herself so she can better the lives of those she impacts daily.
Maintenance, Operations and Facilities: Efren Barrera, Head Custodian, College View Elementary School, Ocean View School District, Huntington Beach, Orange County (16 years in current position)
Mr. Barrera is an icon within the Ocean View School District and an integral member of the team at College View Elementary School. Despite the many challenges facing a Head Custodian, Mr. Barrera maintains his quiet demeanor, positive attitude and infectious smile that makes him a favorite of teachers, staff, and students. Mr. Barrera's influence and involvement extends well beyond his role as Head Custodian. When a series of fires were being set on campus at night, Mr. Barrera set up a surveillance system, reviewed the recordings, and worked closely with law enforcement. Suspects were identified. Arrests were made. Mr. Barrera addresses the fourth grade class each year to share his story of becoming a U.S citizen. He concludes his presentation by telling the students how proud he is to raise and lower the school's American flag each day.
Office and Technical Support: Lisa Andresen, School Secretary, Los Olivos Elementary School, Los Olivos School District, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County (11 years in current position)
Working in a small school requires employees to be flexible and often wear a variety of "hats." Mrs. Andresen embodies these characteristics. Her official title may be School Secretary, but the scope of her job requires her to complete a variety of tasks, including acting as a nurse, registrar, handling food service duties, ordering curriculum, assisting with technology issues, and running the day-to-day office. Beyond her many daily duties, Mrs. Andresen serves on the school PTA, the School Site Council, and the Labor Collaborative Committee. She is not only an employee, but a parent. She is personally vested in the school, and her efforts to make Los Olivos a top-notch elementary school is evident in all that she does.
Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Gabriela "Gaby" Beas, Migrant Services Aide, Migrant Education, San Diego County Office of Education (11 years in current position)
Migrant Education is a federally-funded program designed to provide supplementary education and support services to migrant students. Ms. Beas' work in San Diego County is a model of service to students, families, the community, and her county office colleagues. She welcomes opportunities to build her knowledge of local, state, and federal initiatives so that she may better serve her students and families. She builds rapport with students and families by treating them with respect, enthusiasm, and optimism for growth and progress, both academically and socially. With her spirit of service, she recruits migrant students to volunteer on community service activities. The volunteer activities help students build their confidence and connections within the community and advance their career and college aspirations. Ms. Beas recruited and trained more than 150 student volunteers to help provide and deliver holiday gift baskets of food and toys to nearly 1,400 migrant families last December.
Support Services and Security: Debbie Raines, Campus Supervisor II, Vintage High School, Napa Valley Unified School District, Napa, Napa County (18 years in current position)
Over her 18 years at Vintage High School, Ms. Raines has grown and reshaped her position from a campus security role to becoming an adult role model for students. Administrators and staff say that's been a key transformation at the high school because students need positive adult relationships—particularly when being held accountable for their behavior. Students trust Ms. Raines and rely on her to be their advocate, friend, and confidante. Vintage High School staff utilize her many skills beyond supervising the campus and fostering a safe environment. Ms. Raines plays a major role in the school's conflict resolution program, especially with female students. Through her leadership, students now actively seek her expertise in order to resolve conflicts peacefully. Many of these students become vocal ambassadors of the program and the talents of Ms. Raines as a mediator.
Transportation: Kari Anderson, Driver Trainer, Oakdale Joint Unified School District, Oakdale, Stanislaus County (26 years in current position)
Ms. Anderson goes above and beyond what is expected to make sure all school bus trips and daily routes run smoothly. If she notices any overgrown trees or roads in disrepair, she will not only warn the bus drivers but also contact the necessary municipality. When she learns of road construction, she works to find the best alternative route. When she has questions, she is sure to find the answers—even if it means contacting the California Highway Patrol or the California Department of Transportation. Perhaps her most important quality is her love of children, which is her constant motivation to do a great job, keep students safe, happy, and learning. She raised her children in Oakdale and has been vested in the school system, both personally and professionally, for a very long time. She enjoys telling students that she knows their grandparents or that their mothers and fathers used to ride her bus to school.