Five outstanding workers have been selected as IUSD Classified Employees of the Year

As the administrative assistant to the principal at Stonegate Elementary School, Karen Roggero is usually the one to plan the fire drills. So when the alarm sounded early Wednesday morning, she was surprised to say the least.

“I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” she said. “I thought (Principal Bruce Terry) had fouled up the fire drill.”

Karen Roggero, right, is congratulated by CSEA President Janelle Cranch after being named one of five Classified Employees of the Year.

As it turns out, the drill was just a clever ruse to draw the entire school out to the playground, where it was announced that Roggero had been selected as a Classified Employee of the Year for IUSD.

Local representatives of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), in cooperation with Irvine Unified, annually choose five outstanding workers to receive the honor. Along with Roggero, this year’s recipients are Ahmad Mirsafian, an instructional assistant at Northwood High School; Susan Weatherholt, an ASB accountant who also works at Northwood; Mike Edman, an electrical foreman for the district; and Thao Huynh, an assessment specialist. All were surprised with the news at their respective work sites.

“I am so honored and grateful to have received this award,” Huynh said afterward. “It truly is a pleasure to work in this district with so many exceptional and dedicated people. I feel so privileged to have a job that I love and one that brings me so much fulfillment on both a personal and professional level.”

Represented by CSEA, classified employees include administrative assistants, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, nutrition services staff members and scores of other non-certificated district workers. To honor their contributions, the IUSD Board of Education recently passed a resolution proclaiming this week “Classified School Employee Week.”

“We are so fortunate to have exemplary classified employees whose contributions enable all of the wonderful things that go on in our classrooms,” said Superintendent Gwen Gross. “In particular, these five individuals have gone above and beyond in the service of our students and our communities, exhibiting passion, enthusiasm and attention to detail.”

As in previous years, the 2010 Classified Employees of the Year were picked by a committee that included local CSEA President Janelle Cranch, IUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Terry Walker, Human Resources Director Rena Thompson and the five winners from last year.

Nomination forms were sent out to all schools and district sites in April, and the committee received dozens of submissions. Committee members narrowed the field to five after interviewing a cross-section of each nominee’s coworkers.

Each Classified Employee of the Year will receive $1,000 – courtesy of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation – as well as a jacket and commemorative plaque.

With so many outstanding candidates to choose from, Cranch said the committee looked for those who pushed beyond the limits of their job descriptions to make a positive impact.

“Our selection process is extremely comprehensive and impartial,” Cranch said. “As a result, the five employees that we honor today truly are the best of the best.”

Update: To read brief profiles on this year’s winners, click here. To read the story that was published on the Orange County Register website, click here.