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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #15-40
May 7, 2015
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces California's
2015 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 many contributions to schools and students.

"Classified employees are a vital part of the success of our education system," said Torlakson. "They are on the job every day to ensure our students get to school on time, receive nutritious meals, and are able to learn in a clean, safe, and well-ordered environment. They are instrumental in helping to build and strengthen an overall positive school climate and culture. To them and their enduring spirit, I offer my congratulations and respect."

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. This year's recipients were chosen from among 101 nominees.

The 2015 Classified School Employees of the Year, who will be honored by Torlakson at a luncheon held May 18 in Sacramento, are: (The information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms.)

Child Nutrition: Raul Torres, Cafeteria Manager, Glick Middle School, Empire Union School District, Modesto, Stanislaus County (12 years in current position)

Each school day, Mr. Torres is responsible for serving more than 600 students breakfast, lunch, and/or supper. A culinary wizard and a highly regarded child nutrition expert, he has developed effective procedures to ensure the food production system provides safe nutritious foods of high quality. Mr. Torres goes beyond the normal duties of a cafeteria manager and makes a special effort to work with teachers to make school meals part of the curriculum when possible—like when he served calamari to science students when they studying squid. Friendly, creative, and colorful, Mr. Torres often comes to school wearing his Glick Middle School tie-dye T-shirt. He has a great rapport with students, motivating them to develop and maintain healthy eating habits. His commitment and dedication have earned the respect of all district employees.

Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities: Alfredo Perez, Head Custodian, Rea Middle School, Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Costa Mesa, Orange County (10 years in current position)

Mr. Perez delivers services with pride, care, dedication, diligence, quality, and excellence. He treats students like family, and students have come to call him "Uncle." When he arrives on campus early each morning, his main goal is to ensure that the huge school is safe and welcoming. He is committed to the school environment as if it were his own home. Mr. Perez is a true mentor who works with students to instill respect, responsibility, and care for others. He says, "If I can get one kid in the right spot, then I am doing the right thing." This principle is also evident at home. His two oldest daughters have earned master degrees and his son is in college. A man of humble grace and pride, he is adaptable, flexible, and patient. Mr. Perez is known throughout the community for his professionalism, his family values, and his positive energy.

Office and Technical: Janelle Cranch, Buyer Technician, Office of the Irvine Unified School District, Irvine, Orange County (12 years in current position)

Mrs. Cranch is an invaluable asset and resource in supporting the district's vision and mission. Her conduct serves as a model of the core values of the school district, which is one of the most high-performing districts in the nation. During the state's budget crisis, Mrs. Cranch's leadership, calm communication style, and comprehensive understanding of district finances greatly contributed to the continued and ongoing success of its instructional programs. She advocates for classified personnel as well as the education of students and has occupied several leadership roles on prominent committees at the state and local levels. A soft-hearted and empathetic individual, Mrs. Cranch is always willing to go above and beyond normal expectation, resulting in many significant accomplishments for the district and the community.

Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Janice Currie, Special Education Instructional Assistant, Ready Springs School, Penn Valley Union Elementary School District, Penn Valley, Nevada County (14 years in current position)

Mrs. Currie is the quintessential career para-professional. She is an expert instructional support leader on the school's special education team and trains and guides new instructional assistants. She instinctively relates to a child's situation and is able to take appropriate action to help soothe a potentially troubling behavior. She has a rapport with students who in turn trust and respect her. Known for her ability to work with challenging children, she has a natural, calm centeredness about her that is important when talking with parents and students. She exhibits her dedication and love of children in everything she does. Mrs. Currie has participated on many committees and has attended Nevada County's Autism School, where she has put the skills she learned there to everyday use with both special education and general education students.

Support Services and Security: Gricelda Cardenas, Foster Youth and Parent Liaison, Public Services for the Woodland Joint Unified School District, Woodland, Yolo County (7 years in current position)

Ms. Cardenas' knowledge of foster youth and school procedures puts her in an ideal position to offer her expertise to administrators, school staff, social services professionals, group home personnel, and foster parents. Her position in the district is unique and important. To ensure families have access to community resources, she participates on various committees and boards, such as the Salvation Army. Ms. Cardenas also provides training throughout Northern California to ensure compliance with new laws and best practices. When a student is not attending school, Ms. Cardenas works to build a positive relationship and through her interactions, she identifies the barriers to attending school and works to overcome them. She is culturally sensitive and creative in her approach. Ms. Cardenas personally takes students to school and works with school staff to form special connections with struggling students, so they get the support they need.

Transportation: Phoebe Minick, Bus Driver, Foothill Horizons Outdoor School, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Sonora, Stanislaus County, (2½ years in current position)

Ms. Minick is the lead bus driver who is responsible for driving students, high school counselors, and teachers to and from the outdoor school program on the first and last day of their week of outdoor education. She is an excellent bus driver who always puts safety first. But Ms. Minick is much more than a driver. She knows how to strike a balance between being strict and friendly with her passengers to make sure they have positive and safe experiences. Her wonderful attitude and sense of humor are appreciated by students and staff alike. She eagerly takes on extra tasks to make field trip days run more smoothly for everyone. She is constantly looking for ways she can help to improve the student and staff experience.

Please visit the California Department of Education's Classified School Employee of the Year Web page for more information. The program is presented by San Mateo-based California Casualty.

And coming up later in May is California's Classified School Employee Week, established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, will be celebrated May 17—23, 2015.

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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, July 29, 2019
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