District Announces 2015 Classified Employees of the Year

Today, IUSD announced its five Classified Employees of the Year – Jody Butte, Alex Cruz, Julie Hicks, Rose Magda and Gerry Ruiz.  Classified employees include the men and women who work hard every day to ensure the District runs efficiently to serve our students and their families.  They include secretaries, custodians, paraeducators, bus drivers, maintenance technicians, clerks, food services staff members and all the other non-certificated workers.  Most are represented by the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

Similar to previous years, a caravan of District employees and Board Members traveled to each winner’s site to surprise them in front of their colleagues and in some cases their school sites.  This year’s well-wishers included Board Members Lauren Brooks and Sharon Wallin, Superintendent Terry Walker, district staff, CSEA President Janelle Cranch and the five 2014 Classified Employee of the Year winners.

Alex Cruz

IMG_8525The day started at 8:20 a.m., with the first stop at the District’s Maintenance and Operations facility to award Alex Cruz, Maintenance VI Plumber, with Classified Employee of the Year.  Alex has been with IUSD for 17 years and received this award for his positive “get it done” attitude, strong work ethic and his commitment to the District.


For several months, Alex was the District’s only plumber, responsible for all 40 District sites.  Previously, Alex had shared this role with a colleague who retired last year.  During a months-long period, Alex took on the increased workload with the utmost professionalism.  He worked with maintenance staff to ensure each site was well-maintained and functioning.

“IUSD is a great environment to work in,” said Alex.  “I enjoy doing what it takes to get the job done but it’s also a team effort.  I work with great and dedicated people.”

Jody Butte

IMG_8538Jody Butte, Supervisor of Nutrition Services at Northwood High School, was the next stop at 9:15 a.m. Jody has been with IUSD for 20 years and received the Classified Employee of the Year award for her leadership and outstanding customer service to Northwood students.

IMG_8531Jody is known for caring for her students, nurturing staff and creating an environment of inclusion through her leadership.  Since she moved to Northwood High School during the 2012-13 school year, students who utilize the cafeteria for breakfast have quadrupled and students who purchase lunches have tripled. She goes out of her way to accommodate students’ requests for healthy snack and food items and talks with students daily to ensure she is meeting their needs.

“I love what I do,” said Jody.  “I love our students, IUSD and the people I work with.  This is so unexpected…I am honored.”

Rose Magda

IMG_8554The third stop was to Greentree Elementary where Rose Magda, Instructional Assistant Special Education, was awarded the Classified Employee of the Year in front of school staff and students at 10 a.m.  Rose has been with IUSD for four years and received the award for her compassion, unparalleled creative approach to serving students and for her extraordinary efforts to ensure every student is included.

IMG_8540Rose, known for her trademark phrase “Stop it!”, makes learning fun for students with profound disabilities.  In a typical day, she goes above and beyond to communicate to students that they are smart, kind, appreciated and most importantly, loved.  An example of her care is when she dressed up like a tree so she could help her student participate in the school play.  She dressed up so she would not be noticed while holding the student’s head up so the child could sing.

“Greentree students are so wonderful, they make me want to be better,” said Rose.  “I love the people I work with and feel honored.”  She concluded her remarks with, “Stop it!” and a smile.

Gerry Ruiz

IMG_8564Next up at 10:40 a.m. was Gerry Ruiz, PE Equipment Custodian at Irvine High School.  Gerry has been with IUSD for 14 years and received the Classified Employee of the Year award for his dedication, responsiveness and integrity.

IMG_8559Gerry is often proactive and demonstrates great leadership skills.  When one of Gerry’s colleague’s wife went into labor, he stepped up without hesitation to take on the workload so his colleague could be there for the birth.  The football team heavily relies on him during football season.  On Fridays, he will often work a 20-hour day.  A lot is requested of Gerry and he does it with a positive attitude and professionalism.

“I consider the people I work with to be family,” said Gerry.  “I like to help when I can and love working here with you all.”

Julie Hicks

IMG_8578The final stop at 11:25 a.m. was to College Park Elementary to award Julie Hicks, Media Tech I with Classified Employee of the Year in front of school staff and students.  Julie has been with IUSD for 10 years and received the award for her passion, creativity and dedication to helping develop students’ skills and love of reading.

IMG_8570Each week, Julie works with sixth-grade student council members to make video announcements on a variety of important school topics.  She helps the students write the scripts and edit the videos, which are shown during weekly library time.  She often works after school or on the weekends to ensure the production of the videos is perfect.  Many of Julie’s former students have taken these valuable skills and experience and pursued video production.

“The students inspire me each and every day,” said Julie.  “I love working here and with such wonderful people.  This is so surprising!”

Congratulations again to each winner, who will receive $1,000 courtesy of CSEA Chapter 517, as well as a jacket and commemorative plaque. They’ll also be honored at the June 2 IUSD Board meeting.