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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #20-94
November 13, 2020
Contact: Jonathan Mendick
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces
2020 California Classified School Employees of the Year,
National Award Nominee

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today honored six outstanding classified school employees for their dedication to California’s public-school students. He also nominated one of the six for the inaugural Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award, a national honor which will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in spring 2021.

“This has been an extremely difficult year, and meeting students’ basic needs as well as their social and emotional needs has been more important than ever,” said Thurmond. “Thankfully our classified employees have made heroic efforts to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn. These dedicated employees make sure that kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and have someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes—helping them stay safe and supported in their lives and in their education.”

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 66 nominations statewide.

The 2020 Classified School Employees of the Year are (information contained in the following biographical sketches was excerpted from their nomination forms):

Child Nutrition: Phillip Burns, Food Service Sous Chef, Anaheim Union High School District, Orange County. 6 years in current position.

Phillip’s responsibilities include recipe development, product testing, planning and production of special diets for special dietary accommodations for the district, and helping with the oversight of the district’s central kitchen. He brings in his culinary expertise to implement creative ideas to help improve the food served in the school district. What is most striking about Phillip is his willingness to support, help, offer solutions, and learn. He presents his ideas for taste panels and discussions so students and parents can get involved in the process of building healthy eating habits. He is always the first to remember the special dietary accommodations when there are menu changes or changes in production, so that all students can eat safe nutritious meals.

Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities: Joel Magallon, Tradesman ll, Monterey County Office of Education, Monterey County, 5 years in current position.

Joel can fix or repair anything. He has vast knowledge of the building trades. Joel’s strengths are problem-solving, honesty, integrity, and willingness to work collaboratively with others to get the job done. He donates his time, materials, and expertise to community building projects and to the Early Learning Program outside of normal business hours. His commitment to helping others is his top priority. He has a wealth of knowledge and loves to share with anyone that is looking to grow personally and professionally.

Office and Technical: Estella Ramirez, Office Clerk, San Lucas School, San Lucas Union School District, Monterey County. 46 years in current position.

In addition to being a California School Employee of the Year, Estella is also California’s nominee for the national Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award. Now in its inaugural year, the new award honors and promotes the excellence exhibited by classified school employees who provide exemplary service to students, and will be announced in spring 2021 by the U.S. Department of Education.

Estella is the first face you see upon entering the school office. She greets not only staff, but parents and students every morning with a smile and kind words. Estella is the one person her office knows they can go to for anything. If she doesn’t already know the answer, she knows where to go to find it. She is the heart of the school. She’s always willing to go the extra mile to help, and in a small district operating with a small staff, you can find her conducting assessments, translating documents, serving lunch, and supervising student behavior in the lunchroom.

Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Dario Gonzalez, Academic Intervention Specialist, Bilingual Sr., Twin Rivers Unified School District, Sacramento County. 9 years in current position.

Dario is known as the “go-to” person for anything and absolutely everything. In addition to being in charge of attendance, he also works on student behavior plans and intervention, student awards, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). He’s present at all parent/community meetings and has built confidence and trust within the community and staff by always providing follow-through on school matters, building strong relationships, and delivering even the most difficult messages with tact and confidence. When observing Dario working with students with behavior problems, it is clear that he has a gift for communicating with students. He quickly builds trust and rapport with students and prepares them to return to class and be successful.

Support Services and Security: Jacqueline Simon, School Security Officer l, Frick Impact Academy, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County. 23 years in current position.

Ms. Jackie is dedicated to students. She is very direct while being very calm, and when she walks off, students comply. She is a child whisperer. Ms. Jackie has an exceptionally calm demeanor that people are automatically drawn to. She is an incredible natural counselor. Ms. Jackie has words of wisdom for all of the students every day, little words to get them through and keep them on track. She is funny and has a great sense of humor, but you can tell it’s from the heart. She speaks with a huge amount of love in her voice. There is always a lesson to be learned from what she is saying.

Transportation: William Taylor Jr., Truck Driver l, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County. 8 years in current position.

Mr. Taylor exemplifies capable professionalism and exhibits high standards for everything that he does. He delivers meals to school sites, acts as the lead driver handling an incredible amount of logistical challenges, performs truck repairs, does inventory of kitchen and truck supplies, and works with staff and vendors. He is a unique individual who is not only fully capable but extraordinarily willing to perform his job well at the highest standard. When a high school was closed in March and students had to move to three different sites, he worked weekends and overtime to make sure students had Chromebooks and desks at the temporary sites. He will always step up and do what needs to be done.

Please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) Classified School Employees of the Year web page for more information. The program is co-sponsored by the CDE, the Classified School Employees Association, and our Presenting Sponsor, San Mateo-based California Casualty. California’s Classified School Employee Week, established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, was celebrated from May 17 to May 23, 2020.

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

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, July 06, 2022
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