May 5, 2022
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2022 California Classified School Employees of the Year
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today honored nine outstanding classified school employees for their dedication to California’s public school students. Two of the nine winners will be nominated for the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award, a national honor which will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in 2023.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time for our students and families, and I want to congratulate these outstanding employees for going the extra mile to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn,” said Thurmond. “These dedicated employees make sure kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes—helping keep them safe and supported in their lives and in their education.”
The annual program honors outstanding classified school employees from the following categories: Paraprofessional Services, Clerical and Administrative Services, Transportation Services, Food and Nutrition Services, Custodial and Maintenance Services, Security Services, Health and Student Services, Technical Services, and Skilled Trades Services. This year’s recipients were chosen from 123 nominations statewide. The 2022 Classified School Employees of the Year will be honored by Thurmond at a luncheon in Sacramento on Thursday, May 19, 2022.
A selection committee evaluates the applications using eligibility criteria and performance documentation in work performance, school and community involvement, leadership and commitment, local support from colleagues who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work, enhancement of classified school employee’s image in the community and the school, and any other areas the school deems exceptional and pertinent to the CSEY Award. Finalists are approved by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction or his designee.
The 2022 Classified School Employees of the Year are:
Clerical and Administrative Services: Trudi Walsh, School Secretary, Stanley A. Murphy Elementary School, Humboldt County Office of Education, 8 years of service.
Trudi Walsh has worked as the school secretary for the past 8 years, but brings over 30 years of experience working for the school in other roles. She’s made an impact on the Stanwood A. Murphy community, improving it in several areas. Trudi wore several hats during her tenure, taking on the role of cheer coach, study trip chaperone, tutor, and trusted confidant by her students. Trudi works with the school’s regional counseling program to help provide services to students and their families. Trudi’s been known to make visits to student’s homes to hand deliver meals or care packages. She is also the coordinator of the school’s “Sunshine Fund,” which provides support to staff members and their families in time of need, as well as to students and their families.
Custodial and Maintenance Services: Robert Estrada, Head Custodian, Rio Vista Elementary School, El Monte City School District, Los Angeles County, 7 years of service.
Known throughout the Rio Vista community as “Old Reliable,” Robert Estrada has made a lasting impact on the school that he serves. During the 2021–22 COVID-19 winter surge, Robert made himself available when staff shortages were rampant. He often pulled double duty and weekend shifts at other school sites to make sure his colleagues’ work did not stagnate due to illness. Robert uses Rio Vista’s “Lead, Learn, and Serve” initiative when teaching students how to properly clean equipment. Student custodial work is now a popular activity on campus, with kids actively volunteering to be part of Robert’s lunch preparation and cleanup duties, leaving the school to search for a new form of community service.
Food and Nutrition Services: Gayla Hager, Food Service Lead, Hanson Elementary School, Ramona Unified School District, San Diego, 18 years of service.
In addition to being one of California’s two nominees for the national RISE Award, Gayla Hager stands out as an exemplary school food service professional, in both her kid-friendly approach to customer service and her stellar work performance, even during difficult circumstances. Gayla has perfected the balance between regulatory compliance and happy, well-fed students. Gayla learns student’s individual likes and dislikes so she can confidently represent them at districtwide menu planning meetings. On several occasions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gayla had to single-handedly prepare, serve, clean up after, and document 450 meals in one school day. Gayla reinforces polite manners and kindness in her cafeteria, in an effort to spread positivity throughout the campus.
Health and Student Services: Sheri Saladow, Guidance Technician, Aliso Viejo Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District, Orange County, 18 years of service.
The Aliso Viejo Middle School community has certainly been impacted by Sheri Saladow’s service as the school’s academic advisor. Sheri has always been an advocate for English language learners and students with disabilities. In addition to her role as academic advisor, Sheri is also involved in leadership at the district level. Sheri believes deeply in each student’s potential and epitomizes the role of academic advisor in supporting each student to meet their potential. She is committed to providing a safe equitable learning environment for all students.
Paraprofessional Services: Renee Thompson, Classroom Instructional Aide, Lassen View Elementary School, Redding Enterprise Elementary School District, Shasta County, 13 years of service.
Renee Thompson helps to support students in every way she can, working with struggling readers by leading intervention groups and encouraging students who haven't always found success in school. She’s led multigrade and English language learner interventions, provided before school care and tutoring after school. Working as a kindergarten aide, she’s always contributing to assignments that benefit the Enterprise Elementary community.
Security Services: Erik Estrada, Campus Supervisor, Valley Vista High (Continuation) School, Huntington Beach Union High School District, Orange County, 15 years of service.
As campus supervisor for Valley Vista High, Erik Estrada has a long-standing relationship with the local police department within the community. This positive relationship allows both organizations to better serve and support the students throughout the district, whether on or off campus. Erik encourages students to stay out of trouble and supports them in making better choices and life decisions. Erik is able to walk that fine line between protecting the campus and ensuring a warm and welcoming school environment.
Skilled Trades Services: Timothy Romine, School Mechanic, Orcutt Union Elementary School District, Santa Barbara County, 9 years of service.
Working as a jack-of-all-trades, Tim Romine is the only mechanic in the district. He maintains all of the school buses, work vehicles, and other transportation equipment. Tim’s work performance is exceptional, and he raises the level of work of those around him. Tim keeps all vehicles in the district’s fleet operating at the highest level possible—he takes a lot of pride in what he does and it shows in his work. Tim constantly coaches and trains other employees who are using district vehicles or equipment.
Technical Services: Armando Gomez, Database Specialist, Los Alamitos Unified School District, Orange County, 6 years of service.
Armando Gomez has created innovative ways for students to continue to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring they have the resources and Information Technology services to excel in their distance learning programs. Armando was and continues to be critical in the development, evolution, and implementation of the district’s virtual and hybrid learning models necessary during these two pandemic years. Armando also creates tutorial documentation for students and families on the use of the Student Information System.
Transportation Services: Shannon Lauricella, School Bus Driver, Garden Grove Unified School District, Orange County, 9 years of service.
Shannon Lauricella, also a 2023 RISE Nominee, is known by other bus drivers as “our work mom.” Shannon continues to devote her time and talents to those less experienced drivers who want to talk or ask questions. During her “campus time,” Shannon assists teachers in a kindergarten classroom at Lawrence Elementary School, where she helps to guide students in various assignment and projects. Shannon is also a member of the district’s “Bus Roadeo” Team and mentors other drivers to prepare for a statewide competition that showcases and puts to the test the extensive skills of school bus drivers.
Please visit the California Department of Education Classified School Employees 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. California’s Classified School Employee Week, established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, will be celebrated May 16 to May 20, 2022.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100