Outstanding IUSD workers honored as 2011 Classified Employees of the Year

Elcie Peterson thought she was running a legitimate errand. Turns out, the task was just a little subterfuge by the Northwood Elementary School staff. 

When the beloved media specialist was summoned back to Northwood, she was surprised to find her coworkers and the entire student body assembled out on the playground, applauding her selection as an IUSD Classified Employee of the Year. 

Elcie Peterson, a media specialist at Northwood Elementary, is congratulated by Principal Stuart Payne after being announced as a Classified Employee of the Year.

“I would much rather be behind the scenes and celebrating all of you,” a humbled Peterson told the crowd. “But thank you. I am extremely honored.” 

Local representatives of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), in cooperation with IUSD, annually choose five outstanding classified workers to receive the recognition. In accordance with tradition, this year’s batch was surprised at their work sites by a delegation that included Board of Education President Sue Kuwabara, board member Sharon Wallin, Superintendent Gwen Gross, Assistant Superintendent Terry Walker, local CSEA President Janelle Cranch, last year’s recipients and district staff. 

Along with Peterson, the 2011 recipients are: Cecie Bertone, Eastshore Elementary School’s administrative assistant to the principal; Esther Hickey, a construction technician in the district’s Construction Services department; and Vidya Mukund, an instructional assistant at Meadow Park Elementary School. (To read brief profiles on each winner, click here.) 

Of course, for those of you keeping score, that’s only four. The fifth Classified Employee of the Year has yet to be announced. 

(Update: Julio Manzo, the head custodian at Stone Creek Elementary School, was announced Wednesday as the fifth and final Classified Employee of the Year. Click here for details.)

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

“The Irvine Unified School District and its 27,000 students benefit in so many ways from the hard work and dedication of our classified employees,” Superintendent Gross said Wednesday. “The individuals that were announced this morning particularly exemplify the values of this district, exhibiting passion, commitment and attention to detail in service of our schools.” 

As in previous years, the 2011 Classified Employees of the Year were picked by a committee that included CSEA President Cranch, Assistant Superintendent 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. 

Cranch noted that the selection process was designed to be thorough and impartial. The committee, she said, looked for those who specifically pushed beyond the limits of their job descriptions to make a positive impact. 

“The employees that we honor this year truly are the best of the best,” Cranch said. 

In addition to receiving a commemorative plaque and jacket, each Classified Employee of the Year will be honored at an upcoming school board meeting.