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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #18-32
April 24, 2018
Contact: Scott Roark
E-mail: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2018 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.

“In light of recent events, school climate and a nurturing environment for students are more important than ever. These outstanding employees play critical roles in creating that environment,” Torlakson said. “They are dedicated and strive for excellence. It’s the same whether they’re serving healthy meals, driving the school bus, keeping a campus safe, or checking transcripts to make sure students are on pace to graduate. I applaud their fantastic work in helping students realize their full potential.”     

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 2018 Classified School Employees of the Year, who will be honored by Torlakson at a luncheon in Sacramento on May 24, are: (Information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms.)

Child Nutrition: Chris Flores, Lead Cafeteria Assistant, Oakdale High School, Oakdale Joint Unified School District, Oakdale, Stanislaus County. (Three years in current position).
Ms. Flores goes out of her way to make a cafeteria feel like home, encouraging friendly interactions between students and staff, and decorating the space for holidays and events. She knows students by name and goes to great lengths to learn about the personal lives of the students she serves, joyfully celebrating student accomplishments and encouraging those who most need it. During Ms. Flores’ tenure, the number of students eating breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria has increased, which is notable with an open campus that has restaurants and fast food nearby. To manage the increase in demand, Ms. Flores opened outdoor food kiosks offering students additional meal choices that are both healthy and popular. She is a pillar of the school community and a highly respected member of school staff.   

Maintenance, Operations and Facilities: Richard Carreon, Lead Custodian, Nordhoff High School, Ojai Unified School District, Ojai, Ventura County. (21 years in current position).
Mr. Carreon does an outstanding job of providing work direction and organization to the members of his custodial and grounds crew. Affectionately known as “Ranger Rick,” he also coaches baseball and supervises football, and consistently demonstrates leadership and commitment. Mr. Carreon was described as an “absolute hero” during the Thomas Fire disaster, working closely with Red Cross and local officials in setting up a disaster center at Nordhoff High School. He performed above and beyond his duties, working 12-16 hour days in dangerous and trying conditions to ensure all evacuees had a safe place to stay. Mr. Carreon and his crew covered all aspects of the needs of the facility, the evacuees and the Red Cross—thus supporting the entire community of Ojai.

Office and Technical Support: Donna Silva, Sr. Clerical Asst./Registrar – Student Data, Del Oro High School, Placer Union High School District, Loomis, Placer County. (23 years in current position).
Ms. Silva is an incredible gate keeper and planner for the high school counseling department, playing a vital role in all counseling processes, including student registration. Born and raised in Loomis, Ms. Silva graduated from Del Oro High School, where her three children also graduated. Ms. Silva works with counselors to identify families going through hardship during the holidays and connects them with local supporters and resources. She also plays an instrumental role in fundraising efforts for scholarships for students.

Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Lily Madrigal, Para-Educator and Prop 10 Coordinator, Hughson Elementary School, Hughson Unified School District, Hughson, Stanislaus County. (Five years in current position).
Ms. Madrigal’s outstanding, innovative leadership benefits the entire school and community. She helps second language learners overcome many academic obstacles, utilizing research-based strategies to more effectively reach struggling students. Ms. Madrigal helps organize and lead the Latino Literacy Program for Hughson and parent help classes that teach strategies, advocacy, and first aid. She is extremely well-known for “Road to Kinder,” a four-night program that helps incoming kindergarten students and their parents acclimate to school life. The event, which last served more than 120 families, concludes with a mini-graduation ceremony and free backpacks.

Support Services and Security: Rosemary Batista, Health Clerk, Valle Vista School, Central School District, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County. (22 years in current position).
Ms. Batista provides a warm, caring and safe environment for everyone who visits her school’s health office, and communicates with parents often when children have a health-related issue. She tracks all the students’ medical information and takes the utmost care that prescriptions are monitored so the appropriate dosage goes to the appropriate student, and proper records are kept. Ms. Batista’s impact goes beyond her daily job duties. She has held every office on the PTA Board and organized an outreach program to provide food baskets for needy families. If you walk on the playground during a school day, you can see the children flock to her, giving hugs and showing appreciation. She is called “a daily gift” to Valle Vista School community, brightening everyone’s day from the minute she arrives on campus.

Transportation: Loyjean Estrada, Bus Driver, Downey Unified School District, Downey, Los Angeles County. (13 years in current position).
Ms. Estrada’s dedication to her students shines through. School staff, parents, fellow drivers, and teachers all compliment her professionalism, attitude, and kindness towards her students. She takes special care to find out about any issues or accommodations students with special needs and disabilities may require. She treats her co-workers like a second family, always energetic and caring. It takes a special person to handle the daily technical tasks of operating a school bus, deal with traffic in and outside of school grounds, answer to irritated parents, and still keep a smile and pleasant demeanor. 

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 21–25, 2018.

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

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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