April 24, 2017
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Classified School Employees of the Year
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today honored six outstanding classified school employees for their dedication to California’s public school students.
“I started my public service career as a high school teacher and coach, and I know first-hand the vital role that classified employees have every day in our public schools,” Torlakson said. “These terrific employees keep schools clean and safe; they make sure our students get to school and can eat healthy meals; and they contribute to an overall positive school culture that cares for the whole child. I applaud the fantastic work these employees do every day.”
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 more than 100 nominations statewide.
The 2017 Classified School Employees of the Year, who will be honored by Torlakson at a May 25 luncheon in Sacramento, are: (Information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms.)
Child Nutrition: Karen Allison, Cafeteria Manager, Adams Elementary School, Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Costa Mesa, Orange County. (11 years in current position).
Ms. Allison is widely known as a wonderful employee with a natural talent in the kitchen and a caring approach to all of her students. She goes out of her way to make sure healthy meals look and taste good, and she accommodates students with gluten-free diets, allergies, and other special dietary needs. Ms. Allison serves 600 meals a day and uses her creativity and energy to deal with challenges such as limited cooking and storage spaces. At Adams Elementary, she begins cooking lunch right after breakfast and rotates oven and warming spaces to maximize output. She fully immerses herself in the school community, including reaching to children and dressing up—and winning the staff costume contest—as the “old-fashioned lunch lady” for Halloween.
Maintenance, Operations and Facilities: Norman Dobrofsky, School Utility Worker, Valley Vista High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District, Fountain Valley, Orange County. (Eight years in current position).
Mr. Dobrofsky is a tireless and dedicated worker who cleans and fixes things at the continuation high school for the Huntington Beach Union HSD. He makes sure that all campus rooms and facilities and prepared and ready for students and staff every single school day. He cleans and stocks all items needed for the on-site child day care center for teen-age parents with infants or toddlers, and he cleans and does laundry at night for the Career Technical Education Baking and Pastry class to make sure the room is ready for students to cook the next morning. He is calm, controlled, and well-organized, including roping off parking, putting up directional signs, and organizing overflow parking at a neighboring church when the school hosts events such as voting precincts for election days, blood drives, or therapy dog visits.
Office and Technical Support: Bridget Sabin, Registrar, San Dieguito High School Academy, San Dieguito Union High School District, Encinitas, San Diego County. (12 years in current position).
Ms. Sabin was one of the original staff when the high school was renamed in the mid-1990s, and she remains an energetic, popular, and beloved figure on campus. As the one and only registrar, she is responsible for a range of duties including checking every student’s transcript to ensure they are on pace for graduation, registering all freshmen and transfer students as they enroll at the school, and even organizing an “Angel Tree” gift program during the holiday season for less fortunate students. Ms. Sabin remains caring and kind regardless of daily work pressures or deadlines.
Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Linda Finken, Instructional Aide, Millville Elementary School, Millville Elementary School District, Millville, Shasta County. (30 years in current position).
Ms. Finken is considered a living treasure at Millville Elementary School where she is a highly popular aide in the classrooms, on the playground, and anywhere else at the one-school, rural district. She has also served as a friend and confidante over the years to hundreds of students at the school, where her four children attended and eight grandchildren currently attend. Her busy schedule includes supporting three different classrooms daily, providing moral guidance to students during recess, and working closely with special education students. If she notices a student who is sullen, distant, or withdrawn, she seeks the child out and tries to determine the source of the child’s behavior, whether it’s being left out of a game or experiencing serious family issues at home. She participates in the school’s “Developmental Assets” programs, which matches her with needy students in foster care or with students whose parent died, and helps young people overcome those challenges.
Support Services and Security: Angie Porter, Campus Supervisor, Benicia Middle School, Benicia Unified School District, Benicia, Solano County. (7 years in current position).
Ms. Porter is an invaluable employee at Benicia Middle School, where she is the first staff person that students see when they arrive in the morning. Teachers, fellow staff, and all students rely on her calm, reassuring manner regardless of the situation. She always knows what is happening on campus, provides information to administrators and teachers on campus social issues, and always returns a student to class with a more focused and improved attitude if they are sent out for behavioral issues such as conflicts with another student. She is a key member of the Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) and Sources of Strength (SOS) teams, which help students understand the cause of their behavior and find ways to improve. She is currently developing a lesson plan and video, which she initiated with students, to showcase positive behavior for all classes on campus.
Transportation: Andrei Rayas, Vehicle Maintenance Technician, North Monterey County Unified School District, Salinas, Monterey County. (5 ½ years in current position).
Mr. Rayas is responsible for inspection, diagnosis, and repair of school buses and all other vehicles in the fleet at North Monterey County Unified, where he is known for going far above and beyond the basic requirements of his position. He understands the importance of education and good attendance, and he works diligently to make sure all students get to school on time. For example, if a bus experiences mechanical issues on a route, he will connect with that vehicle, troubleshoot from behind the wheel, and make repairs on site. He has also taken the role of Lead Mechanic, where he must know all the laws and regulations for school bus operations in California, know California Highway Patrol rules and bus inspection requirements, and understand proper disposal methods for hazardous materials such as fuel, oil, and transmission fluid. He also takes water samples as part of the district’s storm water pollution prevention plan. Plus, he volunteers for the Alisal High School Booster Club, and Alisal Eagles youth football, and cheer organization.
Please visit the California Department of Education’s Classified School Employee of the Year Web page for more information. The program is co-sponsored by the Classified School Employees Association and our Presenting Sponsor, San Mateo-based California Casualty.
Next month is California’s Classified School Employee Week, established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, which will be celebrated from May 21–27, 2017.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100