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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #24-24
May 1, 2024
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2024 California Classified School Employees of the Year

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond honored nine outstanding classified school employees today 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 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 and ensure that 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 134 nominations statewide. The 2024 award winners will be honored by Thurmond at a luncheon in Sacramento on May 23, 2024.

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 nominees’ 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 2024 Classified School Employees of the Year are:

Clerical and Administrative Services: Aries Lewis, Community Liaison, Green Valley and Oak View High Schools, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, San Bernardino County (five years of service)

Aries Lewis plays a pivotal role in fostering positive connections between her schools and the community, particularly in supporting at-risk students. Her dedication extends to guiding students through transitional services and collaborating with military recruiters. A testament to her commitment is her unwavering support for families after meetings, and she earns their trust in the process. Lewis actively participates in community events like Trunk or Treat and Community Night Out organized by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to emphasize the importance of school presence in the wider community.

Custodial and Maintenance Services: Jason Cheeseman, Utility Person II, North Elementary School, Tracy Unified School District, San Joaquin County (10 years of service)

Many North Elementary staff members say Jason Cheeseman is a committed leader, that they do not know what they would do without him, and he is a man of his word. He keeps it real no matter what. Cheeseman takes pride in making sure the campus is clean, supplies are stocked, and staff and students always have what they need. He is committed to keeping campuses safe and providing support as students come to campus and leave campus. Students say they like Mr. Cheeseman’s high fives and they like that he knows their names. They like the clean cafeteria and how he helps them separate their food into the right buckets or cans.

Food and Nutrition Services: Concepcion (Connie) Flores, Cook/Baker, Garden Grove High School, Garden Grove Unified School District, Orange County (23 years of service)

As a cook and baker at Garden Grove High School, Connie Flores wears many hats. She fills the role as the catering chef, makes all the meals for the Apple Cart Café in the district office and as the cook at one of the district’s largest high schools, helps to provide over 1,000 meals a day. Anyone who has placed a catering order with Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD), along with all the students who have tasted her meals, have experienced the value of her cooking. Flores’ impact also extends beyond the kitchen; she fosters a supportive work environment, nurturing the skills of her colleagues and student workers. Her genuine kindness and unwavering dedication have earned her the respect and admiration of peers and supervisors. Outside of work, Connie extends her generosity to the community through charity work, embodying the spirit of service and compassion. Connie's culinary expertise, coupled with her giving nature, makes her a beloved figure both in the school and the wider community.

Health and Student Services: Nachole Yaley, Health Clerk/School Secretary and Administrative Assistant, Millville Elementary School, Millville Elementary School District, Shasta County (six years of service)

Nachole Yaley is in the front office and is the person students go to when ill or upset. Yaley provides a nurse’s care to students by offering first aid, a cracker, or just a sympathetic ear. She is trusted by Millville Elementary students, and they confide in her what they cannot confide to their own families. She builds relationships with students to build that trust so kids have that one person on campus they can go to. She draws her skills from developmental assets and social and emotional learning in a natural, unforced manner. Yaley’s responsibilities include being the acting attendance clerk and homeless foster child liaison, and she oversees student immunizations. In this area, she has dealt with many tricky and uncomfortable situations. She has uncovered falsified immunization records, forged doctor signatures, and invalid medical waivers. She handled each of these events with grace and firmness.

Paraprofessional Services: Sara Sanchez, Paraeducator, Green Hills Elementary School, Millbrae Elementary School District, San Mateo County (10 years of service)

Sara Sanchez excels in making immediate, nurturing connections with families in the Millbrae community. She understands the importance of building strong relationships with parents and caregivers and actively engages with them to support student success. Sanchez’s advocacy for students and their families further demonstrates her commitment to ensuring that every student receives the support and resources they need to thrive. Her natural leadership abilities, proactive approach, and genuine care for students and families make her an invaluable asset to the school community. Sanchez’s dedication to serving others and her advocacy efforts contribute significantly to the positive and inclusive environment the district strives to maintain.

Security Services: Isaiah Joiner, School Security, Mesa View Middle School, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, San Bernardino County (10 years of service)

Isaiah Joiner stands out as one of Mesa View Middle School’s best campus security staff members. He demonstrates an exemplary understanding of what it means to make students feel safe and welcome during this time of uncertainty for students in middle school. With over a decade of dedicated service to the district, Joiner consistently goes above and beyond as campus security. Whether coordinating athletic events, supporting schoolwide restorative practices, or participating in various school activities, he consistently seeks ways to enhance the overall educational experience for students.

Skilled Trades Services: Joseph Federico, Senior Tile Layer, Facilities Division, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County (24 years of service)

Joseph Federico is a Senior Tile Layer who has a great impact on his department and the district as well as being an integral component in keeping school restrooms open for maximum duration by completing his department’s assignments with record completion times. Federico single-handedly runs a crew of 23 employees; he tirelessly keeps the department focused and moving toward completion of the myriad projects assigned to him. Federico’s impact extends beyond the confines of his immediate workplace as he actively engages with other departments to streamline processes and optimize resource utilization. His collaborative efforts have led to the implementation of innovative strategies that have resulted in cost savings and improved operational efficiency across the district.

Technical Services: Rinat Fried, Research Associate, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County (12 years of service)

Known and called on by teachers, teacher assistants, principals, and district leaders, Rinat Fried is eager to support and quick to respond and partner with everyone. She has an incredible work ethic and has given the Oakland Unified School District invaluable tools in understanding data at the individual student, classroom, and grade levels as well as understanding school, network, and district data over time. She has facilitated meetings to negotiate changes in assessment calendar or dashboards with a lens for continuous improvement. Fried holds focus groups with site leaders and teachers to ask them what they need and how she can serve them better and will often pop in to join meetings with other teams to understand how she can help collect data.

Transportation Services: Joshua Crotts, Instructional Materials Coordinator, Twin Rivers Unified School District, Sacramento County (13 years of service)

Joshua Crotts continually strives to learn as much as possible, often going above and beyond his typical responsibilities, so the district has efficient systems in place. He comes to work each day ready to put forth amazing effort to complete tasks and problem-solve any issue that might arise. He collaborates well with all departments and is often a “go-to” person for knowledge and support. Each school year, Crotts and his team have the massive responsibility of delivering thousands of instructional materials to sites so that they are ready to begin the new school year with everything they need. The systems Crotts has created make this process go extremely smoothly. Because of his effort in creating and improving systems, it’s not uncommon to have other school districts visit the district’s warehouse to learn about its instructional materials processes.

For their hard work and dedication to making sure our schools run smoothly, Lewis and  Cheeseman have additionally been nominated to be recognized as Recognizing Inspiring Schools Award (RISE) recipients. The RISE Award is a national honor given each year to classified school employees who are doing extraordinary and inspirational things in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster safe and positive learning environments, and ensure student success. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education solicits all states to submit their top two exemplary classified employee nominations for the opportunity to be selected and recognized as the national honoree by the Secretary of Education.

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.

California’s Classified School Employee Week, which was established as an official week of statewide recognition in 1986 through Senate Bill 1552, will be celebrated from May 15–25, 2024.

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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, May 22, 2024
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