Five IUSD workers learn they’re this year’s Classified Employees of the Year


First came the district’s elementary, middle and high school Teachers of the Year. Now it’s time to honor Irvine’s classified staff members.

To that end, IUSD and local representatives of the California School Employees Association have selected five outstanding district workers as this year’s Classified Employees of the Year. The honorees – a payroll lead, a vehicle maintenance technician, a custodial technician and a pair of instructional assistants – were surprised with the good news at their respective work sites on Wednesday morning.

“Every day, our classified staff members perform essential services that support and enable classroom instruction and extracurricular opportunities for students,” said IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker. “The individuals that we honor today really exemplify the spirit of our classified personnel. At the same time, these five employees have further distinguished themselves as the best of the best with their passion, creativity and attention to detail.”

Without further ado, the 2012 Classified Employees of the Year are:

Donna Florendo, payroll lead, District Office. Donna logs long hours and handles complex operations, yet she always exhibits patience, professionalism and outstanding customer service. Coworkers say she had a direct hand in improving the accuracy and efficiency of IUSD’s Payroll Department by evaluating existing practices and implementing new procedures. At the same time, they say she’s helped make her team stronger, leading by example with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.

Robert Gonzalez, head vehicle maintenance technician, Transportation Department. Hired as a district bus mechanic in 1980 and promoted to head maintenance technician in 1996, Robert capably handles a raft of responsibilities, including maintaining permits, ensuring compliance with new laws and regulations, tracking inventory, ordering parts and monitoring fuel prices. Yet his No. 1 priority has always been the safety of students and staff, and he ensures that every service vehicle meets the highest standards.

Janice McDonell, instructional assistant, Lakeside Middle School. Working in the SUCSESS autism program at Lakeside, Janice often faces challenging situations and behaviors, yet she consistently exemplifies patience and compassion, relying on her training and experience to implement effective strategies. She has a natural gift for comforting distressed students, say colleagues, who view Janice as a positive role model who is always willing to share her knowledge and help others.

Annetta Simons, instructional assistant, Legacy Creekside. An instructional assistant for 18 years, Annetta works with students who are visually impaired, autistic or otherwise disabled, and she employs a number of strategies to help them succeed in and out of the classroom. Annetta is considered a leader in her field and is regularly called upon to train fellow staff. She also takes the time to educate the public about students with disabilities, building bridges from the classroom to the community.

Ismail Yusuff, custodial technician, Maintenance and Operations Department. Dependable and organized, Ismail excels at customer service and has a tremendous work ethic. Coworkers say he takes ownership of his responsibilities, which include running the district’s substitute utility program. In that role, he ensures coverage for a number of departments, including the grounds team, the warehouse, general maintenance and nutrition services. He also has a hand in keeping schools safe and efficient as a member of IUSD’s indoor air quality and energy teams.

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Represented by CSEA, classified employees include secretaries, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, food services staff members and other non-certificated district workers. In all, there are approximately 1,200 classified employees in IUSD, and to honor their contributions, IUSD’s Board of Education recently passed a resolution proclaiming this week “Classified School Employee Week.”

This year’s Employees of the Year were chosen by a committee that included local CSEA President Janelle Cranch, IUSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Eamonn O’Donovan, Human Resources Director Rena Thompson and the five winners from last year.

Nomination forms were sent out to schools and district sites in March, 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 said the committee looked for those who pushed beyond the limits of their job descriptions to make a positive impact.

“We are proud to have a selection process that is extremely thorough and impartial,” Cranch said. “As a result, the five employees that we honor truly exemplify the best our district has to offer.”

Each Classified Employee of the Year will receive $1,000 – courtesy of CSEA Chapter 517 – as well as a jacket and commemorative plaque.