Five exemplary employees who symbolize their profession’s contributions and commitment to education have been named 2014 Santa Barbara County Classified School Employees of the Year.
Being honored this year are Office Manager Rosa Cavaletto of the Santa Barbara Unified School District; Transitional Youth Education Advocate Rosa Valle-Rico of the Santa Barbara County Education Office; and Food Service Worker Margaret Foehl, Inclusion Aide Tammy Hughes, and Information Technology Specialist Jeremiah Johnson, all of the Goleta Union School District.
They will be recognized April 3 by the Santa Barbara County Board of Education, and will represent the county for potential selection as California Classified Employee of the Year.
“These five classified employees represent all the school staff members who play such a key role in supporting children’s achievement, safety, and health,” said county Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “Classified employees are at the heartbeat of education, and we honor them for all they do for children.”
The selection process began with all local school districts being invited to nominate employees from six employment categories. A nominee must be a classified employee of a California public school (preschool through 12th grade), district office, or county office of education in a non-management position and have been in the same service category for at least five years. Nominations can come from a superintendent, administrator, principal, supervisor, colleague, student, or parent. Recommendations focus on the nominee’s work performance, school community involvement, leadership, and commitment. A committee then reviews the nominations and selects the winners.
Rosa Cavaletto, chosen in the office and technical category, has been the office manager at Washington Elementary School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District for 19 years. In nominating her, colleagues characterized her as dedicated, compassionate, prudent, efficient, organized, thorough, professional and precise. They also praised her leadership, versatility, work ethic and attitude.
Principal Anne Hubbard called her “the heart and soul” of the school, who “knows every student, parent, guardian, district worker, staff member, and any other community member that comes into the office. She greets them with warmth and kindness.”
Teacher Michael Acton also praised her willingness to come early and stay late, to attend evening and weekend events, often providing translation services for those attending, and to do whatever is needed to serve students’ needs.
“Rosa cares deeply for the children, families and staff here,” added teacher Elizabeth Mortensen, who also spoke as the mother of a son who attends Washington Elementary. She added, “My son recently said it is amazing that she can have so much to do yet always make him feel as if she has time for him.”
Mortensen summarized, “She is loving, approachable, hardworking and knowledgeable,” and “she has a way of making each person feel important and special.”
Margaret Foehl, selected in the child nutrition category, attended Goleta schools from kindergarten through 12th grade and has worked for the Goleta Union School District for more than 25 years, including the past 23 years in the district’s central kitchen.
Her supervisor, Director Sharon Baird, said she “is extremely dedicated and talented, assisting her team in the preparation of over 2,200 healthy lunches, 700 nutritious breakfasts, and 340 tasty and wholesome snacks a day.”
“Margaret is a role model to all GUSD food service staff due to her excellent attendance, warm personality, strong work ethic, and her commitment to preparing and serving high-quality, healthy foods,” Ms. Baird added.
Personnel Specialist Bonnie Casey said Ms. Foehl “is grace under pressure,” and praised her “kindness, tolerance, generosity, positive outlook, and calm nature,” which all contribute to “the lively and pleasant work environment” in the central kitchen.
District Superintendent William Banning praised her “dedication to excellence” as well as her flexibility and leadership through 25 years of changes in food preparation. He also cited “her energy, enthusiasm, and work ethic, all for the children of our community.”
Tammy Hughes was selected in the para-educator and instructional assistance category. As an inclusion aide at Brandon Elementary School in the Goleta Union School District for more than nine years, she is an instructional assistant who supports students with learning disabilities while they are fully included in general-education classrooms.
“We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and inspiring person to work alongside,” said Brandon Elementary Principal Felicia Roggero.
She and two teachers who nominated Ms. Hughes wrote about her admirable work ethic, dedication, talent, flexibility, and consistent efforts to go “beyond the call of duty.” For example, Ms. Roggero said, she often brings nutritious snacks for needy children “to make sure they have brain food to make it through lessons,” and has also provided them with backpacks, binders, and other supplies.
With a background in art, she frequently volunteers to make posters, banners, and other materials for school events, and has volunteered to help with Brandon’s after-school homework club for sixth-graders.
“At times, an exceptional instructional assistant in a general-education classroom becomes a role model of respect and encouragement for children who are learning to interact with classmates who have exceptional learning needs. Tammy Hughes exemplifies the essential and often humble work of this job,” said Goleta Superintendent William Banning.
Jeremiah Johnson, who was selected in the maintenance, operations, and facilities category, has been an information technology specialist for the Goleta Union School District for more than seven years.
Those nominating him praised his technical and communication skills, professionalism, leadership, kindness, and complete commitment to supporting teachers and students as they use technology that is essential for 21st-century education.
“Jeremiah is a resource for teachers and supports their innovative instructional dreams using a variety of technology,” said Assistant Superintendent Donna Madrigal. “Whether it is previewing an instructional app for a teacher, posting instructional videos, helping out with the after-school robotics class, or setting up Google accounts for students, Jeremiah goes the extra mile.”
Teacher and computer specialist Jim Pigato added, “I often joke that he is able to manipulate time, as the amount of work he gets done each day seems beyond what’s possible. … I’ve seen him answer the most bizarre and inane questions (sometimes from me) with patience and good humor.”
Pigato added, “Students know him by name, and Jeremiah is always happy to answer their questions about technology. … Under daily pressure that would drive most people to the brink, Jeremiah serves our school and our district with a work ethic and integrity that are beneficial beyond measure.”
Rosa Valle-Rico, who was selected in the support services and security category, has been a transitional youth education advocate for homeless and foster youth in the Transitional Youth Services program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office for five years.
“She consistently achieves successful outcomes for students tutored more than three months during the school year,” said her supervisor, Program Manager Bonnie Beedles. “On average, two-thirds of these students progress by at least one grade level in math, English, or both during each year of the tutoring program.”
One high school youth in her program praised Ms. Valle-Rico for helping her stay on track in school; helping her resolve family and other issues; and helping to form the LEGIT Club at Righetti High School, which has become a community of teens with common struggles and goals related to the foster care system.
“She forms a relationship with all the students in the tutoring program and checks in on student progress every week,” the student said. “She leads without telling us what to do, but by helping us figure it out. … She lets students know she cares about them by asking questions and also by being firm with them when they’re not doing what they need to do. She doesn’t let us get away with things.”
Nancy Pacheco, a colleague, said that “her leadership skills have helped me grow tremendously on a professional level … She is the type of employee who, when all doors have been shut, continues looking for alternatives in order to help her students reach their goals.”
Further information is available from Mari Minjarez Baptista, Director of Classified Human Resources for the Santa Barbara County Education Office, at 964-4710, ext. 5256.