A cook from the Westminster School District’s central kitchen has been named one of six California Classified School Employees of the Year.
Deborah Watkins, a 24-year district employee who works in Nutrition Services, earned top honors in the Child Nutrition category, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced this week.
“I am so thrilled to receive this recognition for a job that I love,” said Watkins, who was recently honored as one of six Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year. “Our students bring a smile to my face every day, and it is an honor to serve them and to ensure that they are receiving nutritious meals.”
Colleagues say Watkins has an incredible work ethic, going above and beyond to ensure the highest cleanliness standards and that all rules and regulations are followed. She is responsible for planning and cooking about 7,500 meals and distributing them to Westminster campuses each day, including meals for about 50 students who have food allergies or special diets.
“Debbie is one of the most reliable, hard-working individuals at the district,” says the nomination form submitted on her behalf.
Classified workers include instructional assistants, custodians, IT professionals, business administrators, clerks, bus drivers and other non-certificated staff members who work to support students from preschool through grade 12. The California Department of Education established the Classified School Employee of the Year program in 2008 to recognize these employees and their exemplary work.
Along with Watkins, the 2019 state Classified School Employees of the Year, by category, are:
- Maintenance and Operations: Kim Bramsen, director of maintenance and operations, Ballard Elementary School, Ballard School District, Santa Barbara County.
- Office and Technical: Michelle Brobak, school secretary, Del Rey Elementary, Orinda Union School District, Contra Costa County
- Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Maria Arroyo, behavior specialist, Daly Academy, Chula Vista Elementary School District, San Diego County
- Support Services and Security: Benito Torres, police officer, Stockton Public Safety Academy, Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County
- Transportation: Ramon Moreno, bus driver, Greenfield Union School District, Monterey County
“Meeting students’ basic needs, as well as their social and emotional needs, is essential to ensuring that every student can learn,” State Superintendent Thurmond said. “These dedicated employees make sure that kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and have someone to talk to during difficult times in their lives—allowing California’s students to reach their greatest potential.”
This year’s recipients were chosen from more than 100 nominations statewide. They will be formally honored by Thurmond at a luncheon in Sacramento on May 23.