Mijares: Classified employees perform roles essential to student learning, safety and success

Even if you’re not familiar with the term “classified” school employees, you’re surely aware of their contributions.

These are the dedicated workers who keep our campuses clean, answer office phone calls and provide healthy meals for students. They’re the ones who support educational technology, transport students to school and provide critical support in the classroom.

Al Mijares at his desk

The term “classified” applies to pretty much all non-certificated staff members who work at our schools and district sites. These include instructional assistants, custodians, office clerks, technicians, bus drivers, IT professionals, accountants and so many others who quietly lay the foundation for quality teaching and learning. And at no time has their work been more important — or valued — than during a global pandemic.

While each of these professionals is deserving of our gratitude, the Orange County Department of Education recently spotlighted nine school employees by job category who have further distinguished themselves based on commitment, compassion, creativity and character.

The 2022 Orange County Classified Employees of the Year are: 

  • Sonia Arreguin, Administrative Technician, OCDE’s Alternative Education division (Clerical and Administrative Services)
  • Jason Munier, Day Custodian, La Habra City School District (Custodial and Maintenance Services)
  • Lorena Simerson, Nutrition Services Assistant, Santa Ana Unified School District (Food and Nutrition Services)
  • Sheri Saladow, Guidance Technician, Capistrano Unified School District (Health and Student Services)
  • Evan Jacobs, Behavior Interventionist/Paraprofessional, Tustin Unified School District (Paraprofessional)
  • Erik Estrada, Campus Supervisor, Huntington Beach Union High School District (Security Services)
  • Luis Camarena, Skilled Maintenance Worker, Ocean View School District (Skilled Trades)
  • Armando Gomez, Database Specialist, Los Alamitos Unified School District (Technical Services)
  • Shannon Lauricella, School Bus Driver, Garden Grove Unified School District (Transportation Services)

This year’s winners were selected from a pool of 86 district-level honorees based on their work performance, leadership, dedication and involvement with their schools and communities. And there’s even more good news to share: Four of them were recently announced as state Classified School Employees of the Year.

Estrada, Gomez, Lauricella and Saladow were among nine school employees to earn the honor for all of California. Think about that for a moment. California is comprised of 58 counties, and staff members from Orange County accounted for 44 percent of this year’s winners — and seven of the last 18 honorees over a two-year span. This speaks to how undeniably talented and dedicated our classified employees truly are.

Lauricella may not be done collecting accolades. She has also been nominated to compete in the national Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) awards program, which will announce its winner next year.

In the meantime, all nine Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year are set to be formally celebrated during Classified School Employee Week, which starts May 15. The four statewide winners will be honored again in Sacramento on May 19.

But let’s not wait to congratulate those who go above and beyond each day.

On behalf of OCDE and our county’s education community, I want to commend these school superheroes and express my gratitude to the thousands of other classified employees who perform roles that are essential to the health, safety and academic success of our students.