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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #13-50
April 26, 2013
Contact: Pam Slater
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces California's
2013 Classified School Employees of the Year

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced the selection of six outstanding classified school employees in recognition of their exceptional efforts that contribute hugely to school operations and student success.

"The caliber and commitment of these employees are remarkable. They are not only dedicated and motivated workers, but sources of inspiration to students and faculty alike," Torlakson said. "They drive students to school, feed them nutritious meals, keep their spirits up, help with coursework, reach out to parents, maintain a pristine campus, and demonstrate the kind of positive attitude that produces positive results."

The annual program recognizes six outstanding classified school employees, each representing one of the following categories: child nutrition; maintenance, operations, and facilities; office and technical support; para-educator and instructional assistance; support services and security; and transportation.

The 2013 Classified School Employees of the Year are: (The information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms.)

Child Nutrition: Cheryl Gostisha, Food Service Director

Horicon Elementary School, Horicon Elementary School District, Annapolis, Sonoma County (16 years in current position)

The position of Food Service Director in a small school district is huge and varied. Cheryl is a one-person food service program. She plans all the meals, orders, and shops. She cooks for 60 students, preparing breakfast and lunch daily. She is server, dishwasher, and cafeteria custodian. This year, Cheryl has redesigned her menus and recipes, meeting the new healthy criteria and earning the extra $.06 per meal for her program. She has taken the changes seriously, creating healthy choices of fresh fruit, vegetables, and increased wheat flour. Cheryl also composts and has started a worm farm that the students use for their garden projects. Cheryl is a wonderful asset to the school not only as a great cook but as a genuinely kind and caring person.

Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities: Javier Marquez, Custodian I

Washington Elementary School, Redondo Beach Unified School District, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County (7 years in current position)

The job title of custodian doesn't even come close to describing the impact Javier has on a typical day. He's more like a custodian/counselor/security officer/green team coordinator—the list is endless. Everywhere you look, there are signs of the care and commitment Javier has for his job. He completes his custodial assignments with ease and uses a variety of methods, materials, tools, and equipment to complete each of his daily tasks. Custodians often get the worst of the worst jobs, but Javier never complains and does everything with grace and the utmost of care. And we are proud of the commitment Javier has to the most important people in our schools, the children. There is no doubt that Javier is one of our brightest stars.

Office and Technical Support: Amber Dimas, School Site Secretary II

El Portal Middle School, Escalon Unified School District, Escalon, San Joaquin County (8 years in current position)

Amber's work performance is outstanding. The volume of paperwork and electronic files that pass through her office is staggering. Somehow, she completes all tasks and keeps all this information organized in a manner that is always readily available. Amber cares deeply for both the staff and the students of El Portal. She demonstrates this daily through her interactions with each of these groups. However, Amber makes the needs of the students her number-one priority. She plays so many roles to so many different students—a friend to some, a mother to others. Her work ethic and skill make her a tremendous asset to school administration. However, her love of kids and yearning for their success makes her extremely special.

Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Julie Roe Smith, Instructional Assistant

Orange Grove High School, Corona-Norco Unified School District, Corona, Riverside County (7 years in current position)

Julie is an instructional aide for at-risk special education students at the continuation high school. Her students look to Julie as part mentor, part teacher, part cheerleader, part cop, and part mom. She is tireless. Her job goes far, far beyond the traditional description of an instructional aide. She calls parents on a daily basis and develops strong and productive relationships with them. There is no task she will not volunteer to take on, her work is exact and excellent and her energy and passion are infectious. Julie leads by example. She challenges her students to rise to her level by speaking, dressing, and acting professionally. She understands that the difficulties they face can be debilitating, but through her example, they learn perseverance; they learn that they are valuable human beings who need to keep trying.

Support Services and Security: Celia Raygoza, Recruiter and Student Advocate for the District's Migrant Education Program

New Haven Unified School District, Union City, Alameda County (40 years in current position)

Celia's dedication and commitment to education is inspiring. She takes the time to not only encourage students to excel academically, but she also inspires parents to take a proactive approach in their children's academic lives. Celia locates and recruits qualifying migrant families for the district and program. She monitors the academic, health, and social progress of the approximately 100 students assigned to her and co-runs an after-school tutoring program for migrant students. Both students and their parents look to Celia as the "matriarch" of the program. She is tough with them about doing their best work in school, attending regularly, and behaving. If a child is not being successful, she is in touch with the parent regarding their role in resolving the problem. And she's also inspired parents to inspire their own children by making a commitment to their own education.

Transportation: Sandra Dyson, Bus Driver

Muroc Joint Unified School District, Boron, Kern County (38 years in current position)

Sandra has demonstrated superior job performance every year. She takes her job very seriously and, without a doubt, makes every child feel important and loved by the way she attends to their needs and concerns. Sandra is a consummate professional. She is dependable, kind, helpful, and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job accomplished. Sandra does an amazing job of organizing her time to meet the many demands her responsibilities. When students are on the bus, she provides a safe and fun environment. She knows the name of each student as they enter the bus, and they absolutely adore her. Sandra lives what she expects from students. Students are respectful toward her because they appreciate her and all that she does for them. Her commitment to students is beyond reproach.

Each of the awardees underwent a county and state review process. At the state level, applications were reviewed by a team of job category experts, including at least one member representing local educational agency administration, one member representing employee groups, and one member provided by the California Department of Education (CDE) who reviewed the candidates on the basis of at least five years of service in their nomination category. The candidate evaluation was organized around four themes: work performance, school/community involvement, leadership and commitment, and service above and beyond.

Torlakson will formally honor the six award recipients at a luncheon May 23, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento put on by the CDE and event sponsors. The event coincides with California's observation of the Classified School Employee Week, May 19-25, 2013.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, August 12, 2019
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