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Selection committee awards co-School Employee of the Year Award for first time in program’s 24-year history

Selection committee awards co-School Employee of the Year Award for first time in program’s 24-year history

@TheSunGazette

TULARE COUNTY – There are so many non-credentialed employees doing great work at Tulare County schools, the Excellence in Education Awards committee called a tie for the first time in the program’s history.

Jose Juan Juarez, lead custodian at Palm Elementary School in the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District, and Bobby Richardson, transportation supervisor for Tulare Joint Union High School District, will share the 2018 title of School Employee of the Year.

Juarez’s responsibilities include maintaining a safe and clean campus environment and providing proper training and guidance to custodial staff. Visitors to Palm Elementary will marvel at the school’s manicured landscaping and colorful flowerbeds. Mr. Juarez is responsible for the school’s pristine appearance, saying, “Students, parents and staff need and deserve to work in a clean environment. It is the goal of my team and I to make sure nothing is left unsanitary. There is so much more to keeping a place clean than simply making sure everything is orderly. When offices, classrooms, and bathrooms are clean and sanitized, those working and learning in the facilities are less likely to get sick. When teachers and students are sick, there is always a loss in learning.”

Richardson oversees the transportation of approximately 3,300 students, averaging 1,600 miles daily in a fleet of 30 busses. To establish a positive experience for students, Mr. Richardson worked with the district’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coordinator to train the transportation team in the program. Using PBIS, bus drivers now provide incentives, such as PBIS raffle tickets, to students who demonstrate positive behavior or good deeds.

“Our bus drivers are the first district representatives that student bus riders see in the morning and the last district representatives they see in the afternoon,” he said. “The bus ride can be long for many students, sometimes up to two hours each day. A mutually positive and respectful relationship between our drivers and our student riders is key to fostering a productive environment for learning.”

Richardson and his team are directly responsible for the district receiving over $1 million in grant funds that have provided nine new buses and more than 10 clean air grants for diesel particulate filters, greatly reducing emissions and helping to keep the valley air cleaner. Richardson has also secured additional grants exceeding $100,000 that have been used to purchase electric vehicles, further reducing emissions. He has also worked tirelessly for months with the Air Resources Board to mitigate a $318,000 fine down to zero.

The Co-School employee of the Year award will be presented this fall along with the Tulare County Administrator/Manager of the Year and Teacher of the Year. The Excellence in Education Awards program, now celebrating its 24th year, honors “the best of the best” in the three educational categories. A selection committee of business and educational leaders received a total of 30 nominations this year from Tulare County school districts. Each nomination was reviewed and scored individually by every member of the selection committee.

“The winners are truly champions for education,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “Each winner has a heart for seeing that students grow into successful young adults, and for collaborating with their fellow educators to build healthy campus and district cultures.”

Once the selection committee reviewed each nomination and the scores were tallied, Vidak visited each of the winners to inform them of their award. For the first time in the program’s history, there was a tie in the School Employee of the Year category – resulting in two individuals sharing the award.

Administrator/Manager of the Year award goes to Eloysa Segura, school psychologist for Tulare City School District.

Segura has supported the district for over 25 years and has 35 years of combined experience in the field of school psychology. She holds a master’s degree in education from UC Santa Barbara and a bachelor’s degree in law & society with an emphasis on criminal justice from UC Santa Barbara. District administrators praised Eloysa for visiting families in their homes, listening nonjudgmentally to their challenges, providing transportation, and helping them navigate appropriate agencies. Because of her involvement with local children’s mental health services, health clinics, nonprofit organizations, and her parish, Tulare families now have greater access to much needed support services.

In the community, Ms. Segura founded a Ballet Folklorico children’s group and a scholarship committee within her church.  As part of the Hispanic Alliance for Culture, Education, and Recognition (HACER) in Tulare, she has helped to plan the city’s Cinco de Mayo family events, organized triannual student recognition dinners and helped raise over $168,000 in scholarships for students in the Tulare Joint Union High School District. Ms. Segura was the 2015 United Women’s Organization “Taking Leadership in Wellness” honoree and the 2008 Cesar E. Chavez “Service with a Heart” recipient.

Teacher of the Year went to Susan Ang, a math teacher at Orosi High School. Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District administrators, colleagues and students commended Ang for her caring nature and for going “above and beyond” to ensure she’s available to meet students’ needs, particularly if they’re struggling with math content. When she came to Orosi High school, she immersed herself in the community and the culture. “My students saw that I was invested in them, and, as a result, they became my adopted children and I became their second mother,” she said. Mrs. Ang stays after school four days each week to work with students in her math classes, and takes the lead coordinating Saturday school. “There are moments in that after school small group setting that students will share their life stories,” she said. “I get to know more about them and this improves my instruction.” Colleagues note that Mrs. Ang persistently asks her students for more effort, better quality, and a deeper understanding every day.

At Orosi High School, she teaches an array of higher level math courses, including Advanced Math, Calculus and Advanced Calculus. Ang is a coach for the school’s Science Olympiad team and advisor to the Math Club – a club that has grown from 15 members to 160 members under her direction. In addition, she supports students attending the district’s alternative education sites. Mrs. Ang has worked for the district for 11 years.

The Excellence in Education Awards program were created in 1995 as a partnership between the Tulare County Office of Education and Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU). Each year, award winners, finalists and nominees are honored at an awards breakfast at the Visalia Convention Center. This year, the event will be held October 30. Event attendees will enjoy a video highlighting the work of the overall winners.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our partners in this event – the Educational Employees Credit Union, its President/CEO Beth Dooley, and board of directors,” says Jim Vidak. “Together, we have the privilege of recognizing the many talented men and women who devote their lives to educating children and young adults in Tulare County.”

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