District officials and CSEA announce this year’s Classified Employees of the Year

You may remember that in February IUSD announced its Elementary, Middle and High school Teachers of the Year. Well, today’s the day the district does the same for classified employees.

The classified ranks include secretaries, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, food services staff members and all the other non-certificated workers who make IUSD tick. Most are represented by the California School Employees Association, and this morning five of them will be surprised at their work sites as this year’s Classified Employees of the Year.

Word will travel via a caravan of well-wishers that includes board members Sharon Wallin and Lauren Brooks, Superintendent Terry Walker, district staff and CSEA representatives. We’ll also be tagging along to post live dispatches from each location, so be sure to check back with us throughout the morning. (And please forgive any typos.)

This year’s Employees of the Year were selected by a committee comprising 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.

In all, there are approximately 1,200 classified employees in the district. To honor their contributions, IUSD’s Board of Education recently passed a resolution proclaiming this week “Classified School Employee Week.”

OK, that’s enough background for now. Here we go.


8:25 a.m., Maintenance and Operations

Our first stop of the day is IUSD’s Maintenance and Operations facility, where paint foreman Isaac Indich has just been named a 2013 Classified Employee of the Year.

Isaac was called out of a meeting for the announcement, which took place in front of his coworkers and his wife of 36 years, Marina Indich.

“I’m very surprised,” he said, “and I appreciate every one of you.”

A district employee for nearly 32 years, Isaac oversees the paint shop and two paint technicians. He has a reputation for eliminating graffiti almost immediately, and he even introduced a special coating to protect murals and other campus assets. He also seeks out the latest decking materials to keep surfaces safe, as well as protective coating to prevent corrosion.

Colleagues say he has dedicated his life to ensuring that Irvine’s schools look exceptional, maintaining the highest of standards despite IUSD’s rapid growth.

Isaac said he had no idea the honor was coming, despite an unusual request made a day earlier.

“My wife said yesterday, ‘Make sure your uniform is clean,'” he said.


9:16 a.m., Westpark Elementary School

Moments ago we learned that Ingrid Green, an instructional assistant at Westpark Elementary School, is IUSD’s second Classified Employee of the Year.

Westpark used a routine fire drill to deliver the good news in front of the entire student body and staff.

“I’m just surprised and shocked,” Ingrid said. “Speechless.”

In her role as library/media specialist, Ingrid manages the check-out system, coordinates guest readers, organizes book fairs, works with teachers to ensure library materials align with the curriculum and utilizes technology to support learning. Yet her impact on Westpark goes far deeper. She also coordinates many of the school’s signature events, including Westpark’s talent show and spring musical, creating extraordinary opportunities for students.

Coworkers say she remains quiet and humble about her work despite her many contributions. But her students were wiling to speak up on her behalf Wednesday.

“You have to confirm that she deserves this by making a lot of noise,” Superintendent Walker quipped to the crowd, which responded with a howling chorus of approval.


10:00 a.m., South Lake Middle School

We’re now at South Lake Middle School, where instructional assistant Vanessa Byrne was just announced as the third Classified Employee of the Year.

South Lake teachers and support staff packed into the staff lounge for this announcement, joined by Vanessa’s husband, James; her mother, Annabel Garcia; and her sister, Amanda Garcia. After a few congratulatory words, cake was cut and passed around the room.

“I’m at a total loss for words,” Vanessa said. “I mean, this is my job, and to get an award for doing what I do is just awesome.”

A member of the South Lake staff for about a decade, Vanessa works with students with special needs, and she has been uncompromising in her commitment to their academic, social and emotional success.

She is considered a model instructional assistant who possesses a great insight into why and how students succeed, and her expertise is highly regarded among certificated staff members. Indeed, teachers at South Lake say Vanessa is a gifted collaborator who brings new and innovative ideas to the classroom, merging warmth and compassion with high expectations.


10:30 a.m., Lakeside Middle School

Lakeside Middle School is our next stop, and head custodian Jesus Cazares is in the spotlight. He’s just been named IUSD’s fourth Classified Employee of the Year.

Jesus’s wife, Mely, and the couple’s three children joined the celebration on the playground, where Lakeside students and staff had gathered for another fire drill. The announcement ignited a raucous round of applause.

Jesus enthusiastically lifted his gift basket over his head.

“Only took 25 years but it was well worth it,” he said.

Not only does Jesus keep the campus immaculate, he provides an extra set of eyes for student supervision and even offers to assist with cafeteria duties.

When students are preparing to take exams or drama performances are coming up, Jesus is one step ahead, doing whatever it takes to ensure a smooth event. And when campus fixtures are in need of repair, he takes care of them immediately.

Members of the Lakeside staff say Jesus has a tremendous attitude and consistently goes above and beyond in service of his school.

So that’s four down and one to go. And where are we headed for the final stop? We’re thinking maybe an elementary school. Maybe one with “Stone” in the name.


11:00 a.m., Stone Creek Elementary School

And IUSD’s fifth and final Classified Employee of the Year is … Anne Melanson, administrative assistant to the principal at Stone Creek Elementary School.

Anne was also celebrated on the playground of her school by the entire student body and staff, who promptly outfitted her with a crown and a set of wings. At about that time her husband, Dan, emerged from the crowd along with her daughter, Susan Adams, and her sister, Mary Clarke, who is a kindergarten teacher at Canyon View Elementary.

“I was totally shocked,” Anne told the NewsFlash. “They kept it an amazing secret. My family and everything — I had no clue.”

The honor was especially timely considering her plans to retire at the end of this year.

“This is my Stone Creek family,” she said. “I’m going to miss them all.”

Considered the heart of Stone Creek, Anne is the consummate problem-solver and the go-to person for questions and urgent demands, responding to each with patience, compassion and wisdom.

A leader by example, she often works nights and weekends to ensure her school runs smoothly, and she pursues professional development opportunities for the benefit of Stone Creek.

Anne is also credited with exceptional organization skills. Coworkers say she has developed a number of effective strategies to make their jobs easier, including a year-end checklist for teachers.


So that’s it from the field, but before signing off we’d like to congratulate this year’s Classified Employees of the Year.

We should note that each will receive $1,000 courtesy of CSEA Chapter 517, as well as a jacket and commemorative plaque. They’ll also be honored at an upcoming meeting of the IUSD Board of Education, and we suspect they’ll receive more than their share of high-fives this week.