Garden Grove Unified cook named one of California’s Classified School Employees of the Year

Concepcion Flores Classified School Employee of the Year
Concepcion “Connie” Flores was named an Orange County Classified School Employee of the Year finalist in March. (Photo courtesy of Garden Grove Unified School District)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the 2024 California Classified School Employees of the Year — a group that includes a cook from Orange County.

This marks the third consecutive year that Orange County has been represented by at least one classified school employee honoree. Overall, 10 of the last 36 statewide classified school employees of the year have served at schools and districts in Orange County. 

Flores, Concepcion
Concepcion “Connie” Flores

Concepcion “Connie” Flores has devoted 23 years of service to the Garden Grove Unified School District, serving not only as a cook and baker but as a cherished presence deeply valued by students, staff and colleagues alike.

The annual Classified School Employees of the Year program recognizes exemplary employees in these categories: paraprofessional, transportation, clerical and administrative, food and nutrition, security, health and student, custodial and maintenance, and skilled trades services. 

The program, established by the California Department of Education in 2008, spotlights individuals who go above and beyond in service of their schools and districts. School districts nominate their own top candidates, who can advance to earn county, state and national honors.

“My heartfelt congratulations go to these outstanding employees for going the extra mile to step up and support California students so they can continue to learn,” Thurmond said in a statement. “These dedicated employees make sure kids have healthy meals, safe campuses and transportation, and systems and supports during difficult and unexpected changes and ensure that all students are supported in their lives and in their education.” 

This year’s recipients were chosen from 134 nominations statewide, with each employee evaluated on criteria such as work performance, leadership, commitment, and involvement with their campus and local community. 

Here’s a look at Flores’ background and local contributions, courtesy of the CDE:

As a cook and baker at Garden Grove High School, Connie Flores wears many hats. She fills the role as the catering chef, makes all the meals for the Apple Cart Café in the district office and as the cook at one of the district’s largest high schools, helps to provide over 1,000 meals a day. Anyone who has placed a catering order with Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD), along with all the students who have tasted her meals, have experienced the value of her cooking. Flores’ impact also extends beyond the kitchen; she fosters a supportive work environment, nurturing the skills of her colleagues and student workers. Her genuine kindness and unwavering dedication have earned her the respect and admiration of peers and supervisors. Outside of work, Connie extends her generosity to the community through charity work, embodying the spirit of service and compassion. Connie’s culinary expertise, coupled with her giving nature, makes her a beloved figure both in the school and the wider community. 

This year’s other honorees are Jason Cheeseman, a utility person II in the Tracy Unified School District; Nachole Yaley, a health clerk/school secretary and administrative assistant in the Millville Elementary School District; Sara Sanchez, a paraeducator in the Millbrae Elementary School District; Joseph Federico, a senior tile layer in the Los Angeles Unified School District; Rinat Fried, a research associate in the Oakland Unified School District; Joshua Crotts, an instructional materials coordinator in the Twin Rivers Unified School District; and Isaiah Joiner, a school security staff member, and Aries Lewis, a community liaison, in the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District. 

The state honorees will be honored by Superintendent Thurmond at the Classified School Employees of the Year luncheon on May 23 in Sacramento.