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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #23-33
May 9, 2023
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2023 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.

“My heartfelt congratulations go to 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 campuses and transportation, and systems and supports during difficult and unexpected changes—ensuring all students are supported in their lives and in their education.”

The annual Classified School Employees of the Year (CSEY) program honors outstanding classified school employees in 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 151 nominations statewide. The 2023 award-winners will be honored by Thurmond at a luncheon in Sacramento on May 23, 2023.

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 employees’ 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 2023 Classified School Employees of the Year are:

Clerical and Administrative Services: Adriana Ponce, Office Manager, Jordan Elementary School, Lowell Joint School District, Orange County (eight years of service)

Adriana Ponce sees no limitations—only endless possibilities—when it comes to serving the families, students, and staff of Jordan Elementary and the Lowell Joint School District. Ponce came to Jordan in December 2014 and brought her extensive technical knowledge of what is required to keep a campus running efficiently from her previous experience serving a large district in Texas. Ponce looks for creative ways to solve problems and, during distance learning and the return to hybrid instruction, she organized tasks and delegated responsibilities to classified staff members who were not able to perform their typical duties. In doing so, she took care to be sensitive to personal schedules and various levels of comfort when it came to interacting with others.

Custodial and Maintenance Services: Kerry Wedel, Head Custodian, Blanche Sprentz Elementary School, Folsom Unified School District, Sacramento County (20 years of service)

Despite the loss of the multipurpose room and cafeteria due to a complete remodel, the addition of a large tent to replace the cafeteria, and the replacement of teacher and student furniture, Kerry Wedel is consistently positive and energetic. She takes time to greet students, families, and staff as she cleans up leaves, power washes cafeteria tables, and completes daily work orders for issues like clogged drains. Wedel is very observant and attuned to the needs of her school community and takes the initiative to problem-solve and remedy situations—often before others ever see them.

Food and Nutrition Services: Jaime Carranza, Senior Warehouseman, Anaheim Union High School District, Orange County (five years of service)

As the senior warehouseman for Food Services, Jaime Carranza’s responsibilities include ensuring school sites receive their deliveries, providing technical guidance to all drivers, monitoring and maintaining warehouse inventory, receiving and storing deliveries of food and supplies, and maintaining warehouse equipment and fleet trucks. Carranza goes above his responsibilities on a daily basis. He is dependable and is always ready and willing to assist in all areas. Carranza is approachable and friendly and consistently provides excellent customer service by maintaining open channels of communication. When challenges arise, he is quick to address them and offer up solutions. Because of his knowledge and experience and his willingness to assist others, employees never hesitate to call Carranza for assistance.

Health and Student Services: Amber Dimas, Health Assistant, Kinney High School, Folsom-Cordova Unified School District, Sacramento County (five years of service)

Amber Dimas is an incredible team member who demonstrates excellence in performing her duties taking care of students and staff as a Health Assistant at Kinney High School. She is ready to help at all times, but especially in times of crisis, with calm and well-reasoned responses. She develops systems of care to make delivery of services more efficient as well as demonstrating a high level of individualized care for all students on campus. Dimas truly comes from a whole-child approach and actively engages in supporting students with all their health needs. With her history and experience, Dimas provides those in need with connections to resources or referrals to appropriate support persons.

Paraprofessional Services: Carmen Perea-Tellez, Instructional Assistant, Livermore High School, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, Alameda County (six years of service)

Carmen Perea-Tellez is known throughout the community as one who strives to become better connected so she can provide greater support to students, families, and faculty/staff. She never settles for what is good enough; rather, she proactively seeks to continuously learn and improve. She is a true leader. While working full-time as a Bilingual Instructional Aide, serving as our English Learner (EL) Coordinator, staying after school twice per week to provide tutoring to EL students, and maintaining regular contact with EL students and families, Perea-Tellez also attends college as a full-time student. Her goal is to become a school counselor.

Security Services: John Cantrell, Lead Campus Safety Officer, Ontario-Montclair School District, San Bernardino County (five years of service)

John Cantrell’s exceptional leadership and commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of the Ontario-Montclair school community have been evident throughout his tenure. He takes a proactive approach to addressing safety concerns as Lead Campus Safety Officer and implements measures to prevent potential incidents. His interpersonal skills and positive energy serve as an example and create a culture of safety and trust for colleagues and students. Cantrell’s leadership extends beyond the school; he has demonstrated a strong commitment to the community by working with local law enforcement agencies and participating in neighborhood programs to enhance safety measures in the surrounding areas.

Skilled Trades Services: Jose Gudino, Mechanic, Campbell Union High School District, Santa Clara County (11 years of service)

Jose Gudino works exceptionally with the team of drivers in the Campbell Union High School District. Gudino maintains all of the district buses, which provide transportation for all of its students with disabilities. Gudino also maintains the district’s white fleet of vehicles to ensure food services and facilities team operations run smoothly. Gudino is always the first into the maintenance yard to ensure that all the vehicles start and are safe to board for students and safe to operate by drivers. He is also involved in all budgeting and expense meetings and planning for new electric buses. His eagerness to contribute to all aspects of the team reinforces that he is the best person to be trained in the maintenance of Campbell Union’s new fleet of electric buses.

Technical Services: Belinda Campbell, Senior Computer Operator, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County (13 years of service)

Belinda Campbell has gone beyond her scope of responsibilities over the years and especially during pandemic shutdown periods. She provides exceptional support with the Frontline human capital management system through the help desk, processes Aeries security request forms, and supports users across the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). She is also a great team player and helps other employees throughout OUSD, not just the Technology Services staff. Belinda oversees Employee Online, which is pivotal for all OUSD employees. She is exceptionally organized and process-oriented; she can take just about anything you ask her to do, run with it, and accomplish it on time—with excellence.

Transportation Services: Teresa Altom, Maintenance, Operations, and Transportation Secretary; Hart-Ransom Union School District; Stanislaus County (21 years of service)

Teresa Altom is keenly aware of the wide range of responsibilities of the Transportation Department, which includes the creation and establishment of yearly bus routes and student ridership within the school district. She takes the extra time needed to be present on kindergarten assessment days to make sure that parents have all of the necessary information to register their children for needed busing services. Altom then takes this information to develop class lists of new students registered to ride the bus and makes color-coded wristbands for kindergarten students assigned to color-coded buses and their associated routes. All of this extra effort has been designed and implemented by Altom to ensure that the youngest students have a safe and enriched experience while being transported to and from home.

Please visit the California Department of Education Classified School Employees of the Year web page for more information. The program is presented in partnership with the Classified School Employees Association and this year, Service Employees International Union 1021 (SEIU 1021) joined as a Gold Sponsor. California’s Classified School Employee Week, established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, will be celebrated from May 21 to May 27, 2023.

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

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, May 9, 2023
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