Sous chef from Anaheim announced as one of California’s top classified employees

A sous chef from the Anaheim Union High School District has been named one of six 2020 California Classified School Employees of the Year.

Phillip Burns, who has spent the last seven years in Anaheim’s Food Services division, earned top honors among the state’s classified workers in the Child Nutrition category, state officials announced Friday.

“I am honored and humbled by the nomination and selection for this award,” Burns said. “It has been a great privilege working for the Anaheim Union High School District for the past seven years. It has given me the opportunity to serve the students of Anaheim nutritional and delicious foods and also be part of a wonderfully dedicated team that contributes to their education everyday.”

Portrait of Burns

Phillip Burns, a sous chef from the Anaheim Union High School District, was named one of six 2020 California Classified School Employees of the Year.

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 high school. The Classified School Employee of the Year program was established by the state in 2008 to recognize their vital contributions to teaching and learning.

“This has been an extremely difficult year, and meeting students’ basic needs as well as their social and emotional needs has been more important than ever,” State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said in a statement. “Thankfully our classified employees have made heroic efforts to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn.”

In May, Burns also was named one of six Orange County Classified Employees of the Year, placing him in contention for state honors.

According to his county nomination, Burns’ responsibilities have included recipe development, product testing, planning and creating meals for students with special dietary needs. Before the pandemic, his role expanded to include assisting the central kitchen manager with the oversight and preparation of approximately 20,000 meals a day.

Colleagues say Burns is continually working to develop new menu items that meet strict state and federal guidelines, and he seeks feedback from students, parents and staff to ensure meals are as delicious as they are healthy. Dedicated to his craft and methodical about quality control, he conducts thorough research and is proactive about sharing the latest culinary trends with colleagues.

Burns wants students to build healthy habits at home as well as school, and he’s always up for a challenge. Following a national student culinary competition, the district wanted to add a student-created recipe for sliders, but it proved to be labor intensive and exceeded nutrient guidelines. Burns figured out how to make the dish work while staying true to the students’ vision. The entree was later added to several school menus.

Along with Burns, the 2020 state Classified School Employees of the Year, by category, are:

  • Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities: Joel Magallon, Tradesman ll, Monterey County Office of Education, Monterey County, 5 years in current position.
  • Office and Technical: Estella Ramirez, Office Clerk, San Lucas School, San Lucas Union School District, Monterey County, 46 years in current position.
  • Para-Educator and Instructional Assistant: Dario Gonzalez, Academic Intervention Specialist, Bilingual Sr., Twin Rivers Unified School District, Sacramento County. 9 years in current position.
  • Support Services and Security: Jacqueline Simon, School Security Officer l, Frick Impact Academy, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County, 23 years in current position.
  • Transportation: William Taylor Jr., Truck Driver l, Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County, 8 years in current position.

Ramirez, from the San Lucas Union School District, is also California’s nominee for the national Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award.

“These dedicated employees make sure that kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and have someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes — helping them stay safe and supported in their lives and in their education,” Thurmond said.

For more information, visit the California Department of Education’s Classified School Employees of the Year webpage.