Mijares: OC’s classified school employees ensure schools run smoothly and students thrive

How do we begin to measure the importance of our classified school employees? 

If you’re not familiar with the term “classified,” it’s a designation that applies to office clerks, custodians, instructional assistants, technicians, bus drivers, IT professionals, accountants and other non-certificated staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our schools are running smoothly and that our students have the support they need to thrive.

Al Mijares at his desk

Classified workers are often the first to greet students and visitors when they arrive at a school, and they’re responsible for making sure campuses are safe, equipped and ready to serve families on a daily basis. As such, their investment in our students and communities runs deep.

In May, OCDE and school districts across the county are celebrating their efforts with activities and special messages tied to Classified School Employee Week, which runs from May 22 through May 26. And particular attention is being paid to nine staff members who further distinguished themselves as this year’s Orange County Classified Employees.

By job category, they are:

  • Clerical and Administrative Services: Adriana Ponce, Office Manager, Jordan Elementary School, Lowell Joint School District
  • Custodial and Maintenance Services: Gene Martinez, Maintenance Operations Division Lead, Magnolia School District
  • Food and Nutrition Services: Jaime Carranza, Senior Warehouseman, Anaheim Union High School District
  • Health and Student Services: Emma Avalos, Family and Community Engagement Specialist, Anaheim Elementary Online Academy, Anaheim Elementary School District
  • Paraprofessional: Josephine Walberg, Paraeducator 4, Adult Transition Program, Capistrano Unified School District
  • Security Services: Amira Hana, Playground Assistant, Melinda Heights Elementary School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
  • Skilled Trades: Karin Vizcaino, Skilled Maintenance – Electrician, Los Alamitos Unified School District
  • Technical Services: Manjit Kaur Charaia, Senior Programmer Analyst, Garden Grove Unified School District
  • Transportation Services: Eddie Vey, School Bus Driver, Ocean View School District

From working with our most vulnerable populations to providing students with nutritious meals, these outstanding professionals are rightly considered the best of the best based on their work performance, leadership, dedication and involvement with their schools and communities. And two of them have taken it a step further. 

On May 9, Carranza and Ponce learned they are also among California’s Classified School Employees of the Year for 2023. Their selection means nine of the last 27 state honorees have served at schools and districts in Orange County. That is a truly astonishing statistic.

As county superintendent, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend the 2023 Orange County Classified Employees of the Year, including our state-level winners. At the same time, allow me to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to all our classified school employees for their commitment, compassion, creativity and character. 

Your work is seen, your contributions are valued, and your actions are essential to creating safe, nurturing and inspiring learning environments for all of our students.