Outstanding IUSD workers honored as 2014 Classified Employees of the Year


In February, IUSD made surprise visits to local schools to announce its elementary, middle and high school Teachers of the Year.

And now the day has come to reveal the district’s top classified employees.

The classified ranks include secretaries, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, food services workers and all the other non-certificated staff members who support students and schools. 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.

The good news will be delivered by a throng of well-wishers set to include board member Lauren Brooks, Superintendent Terry Walker, local CSEA President Janelle Cranch and district staff. We’ll also be riding with the caravan to post live dispatches from each location, so check back with us throughout the morning. (And, as always, please forgive any typos.)

This year’s Classified Employees of the Year were selected by a committee comprising CSEA President 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 1,400 classified employees in the district. To honor their collective contributions, the Board of Education recently passed a resolution proclaiming this week “Classified School Employee Week.”

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8:40 a.m., Northwood High School

Our first stop of the morning is Northwood High, where, as it turns out, there are two Classified Employees of the Year.

20140521-085734-32254843.jpgErnesto “Ernie” Medina, the custodian and equipment manager, has earned the honor along with James Adling, the school’s theater manager. Both are pictured with Principal Leslie Roach. (James is on the left; Ernie’s on the right.)

Ernie was announced first during a staff meeting in the theater. Cranch read a summary of his award-winning qualities before finally revealing his name.

“I was looking around to see who it was,” he said.

Soon after, he was embraced by his wife, Lorena: the couple’s children, Celeste and Jaycob; his mother, Sarah; his sister, Veronica; and his brother, Freddie.

All schools should have an employee like Ernie. An IUSD employee of 18 years, he arrives before dawn, works exceptionally hard and is always available to assist and support others.

Fellow staff members say they admire his professionalism and his passion for the job, and he has a great rapport with students. In every aspect of his job, he can be counted on to make sure things are done right, and often with a smile.

A standing ovation broke out for Ernie’s announcement, but there was another big surprise in store.

Cranch told the Northwood staff that James Adling was also a Classified Employee of the Year, igniting another ovation.

James is another great pick. He’s professional, dependable and extremely personable, and there’s seemingly no technical challenge that’s beyond his skill set.

Hired in 2001, James ensures that school performances and presentations go off without a hitch, and he works seamlessly with University High theater manager Brian Des Palmes to broadcast IUSD Board of Education meetings while overseeing the district’s cable station.

No matter the task, James cheerfully finds a way to “make it work,” often improvising creative workarounds until a permanent solution can be found.

“It feels good to be recognized,” he told the NewsFlash. “Not that I like the attention.”

That’s two down, with three to go.

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10:25 a.m., Greentree Elementary School

Kimberly Pyatt, an instructional assistant at Greentree Elementary, has just been announced as the next Classified Employee of the Year.

20140521-094202-34922649.jpgKim’s name was called out after a fire drill brought the students and staff onto the playground, and it wasn’t long before she spotted her daughter, Megan, standing with district leaders. (Kim is on the left in our photo, with Principal Tammi Brown.)

As colleagues rushed to congratulate her, Kim remained humble.

“This is not my thing,” she said, smiling. “I just like to work.”

For nearly 20 years, Kim has been considered a cornerstone of her school, maximizing support for students with Individualized Education Programs.

She meets each new challenge with dedication and enthusiasm, and since starting at Greentree she has earned her teaching credential and her master’s degree to better understand the children in her classes.

Meanwhile, she has also taken on additional responsibilities, including managing the California English Language Development Test and organizing newer exams aligned with the Common Core instructional standards.

Kim may not seek the spotlight, but she certainly represents a worthy selection, evidenced by the crowd of students and staff that quickly enveloped her at the end of the brief ceremony.

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10:10 a.m., Irvine High School

Our current location is Irvine High, where Ruth Codde, the school’s activities account technician, is the latest to earn Classified Employee of the Year honors.

20140521-100733-36453967.jpgThis time the announcement was made in the staff lounge. Waiting in the wings to help celebrate were Ruth’s husband, Bob, and her son, Matt. (We’re told the couple’s other son, Kevin, had finals and was unable to attend.)

A district employee since 1998, Ruth is a model of diligence and ingenuity as Irvine High’s ASB accountant. Not only does she work long hours, she attends many school events on her own time to support students and staff.

Despite her enormous workload, Ruth is positive, cheerful and always willing to assist others, both professionally and personally. Colleagues say she is a team player who continually evolves to meet new challenges and to ensure her school’s practices align with current policies.

“I’m just so surprised,” Ruth said before being mobbed by students and fellow staff.

So those are the first four Classified Employees of the Year, and that means we’ve got one more stop on our tour. Cue the drum roll.

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11:05 a.m., University High School

And the fifth and final Classified Employee of the Year is … Theater Manager Brian Des Palmes of University High School.

20140521-110948-40188865.jpgBrian — that’s him on the left next to Superintendent Walker — was surprised with the good news in front of a group of visual and performing arts students in the Uni High theater. His wife, Cheryl, was waiting backstage.

“This is a complete surprise,” he said. “I am absolutely floored.”

Brian, who joined the staff in 2008, provides a level of service that goes above and beyond his job description. Along with Northwood’s James Adling, who won the same honor this year — see above — he provides audio and visual support for student performances and helps broadcast Board of Education meetings.

Often times, Brian is faced with technically demanding tasks that keep him working late into the evening. But he is the consummate problem-solver, and he’s always willing to share his expertise with other staff members, as well as students.

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That’s it for today’s live coverage, but before we check out, we’d like to congratulate the 2014 Classified Employees of the Year.

We should add that each honoree will receive $1,000 courtesy of CSEA’s Chapter 517, as well as a jacket and a commemorative plaque. All five employees will also be recognized at the June 3 Board of Education meeting.