Sonoma County Office of Education

Honoring Classified School Employees

05/18/2020 -

In honor of Classified School Employee Week, Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), is recognizing outstanding classified school employees from around the county.

Classified school employees, from school bus drivers to cafeteria workers to instructional aides, are the often-unsung heroes who play key roles in creating a school environment that contributes to the whole child by promoting student achievement, safety, and health.

A total of 12 classified school employees were nominated by their school districts for the outstanding work they do in creating and maintaining positive school environments for the students of Sonoma County. Five were selected as finalists who will advance to the state-level awards contest.

The state program is currently on hold as the state responds to COVID-19. However, SCOE wanted to be sure that Sonoma County nominees and finalists were honored before the end of the school year. Each finalist will receive a $100 gift card, courtesy of Redwood Credit Union, and a personal note from County Superintendent Steve Herrington. Nominees will be recognized with a $50 gift card and personal note.

Meet the finalists and nominees below.


CSEY 2020

Child Nutrition

Crystal Bailey | Ridgway High School, Santa Rosa City Schools
Crystal has served as a food service worker for Santa Rosa City schools for more than seven years. She was recognized for advocating for high-quality, healthy lunches for the students at Ridgway, an alternative high school. “Crystal understands the importance of being well-nourished in order to be well-educated,” said Ridgway Principal Valerie Jordan.

Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities

Mekonnen Sebhatu | Ridgway High School, Santa Rosa City Schools
Custodian Mekonnen Sebhatu is described as a quiet, soft-spoken individual who takes great pride in his work, keeping Ridgway’s classrooms and campus clean and beautiful. Mekonnen has helped provide stability and support for the site during the challenging 2019-20 year. Vice Principal Allie Greene wrote, “While we have been in some degree of turmoil, we could count on his steadfast nature.”

Office and Technical

Lizeth Guerrero | Jefferson Elementary School, Cloverdale Unified School District
Administrative Assistant Lizeth Guerrero was described as “one of the best admin assistants I’ve had the privilege to work with” by Principal Susan Yakich. “She knows every student by name (all 512 of them) as well as their parents and knows the family dynamics of each student,” she added. “I admire her empathy, compassion, and worth ethic.”

Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance

Debbie Baumann | Evergreen Elementary, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District
Paraprofessional Debbie Baumann was described as “an integral part of our local school community for over 20 years.” She started as an involved, helpful parent volunteer and was later hired by Evergreen Elementary to support students as a paraprofessional, where she continues to go above and beyond to serve students. Students “know they can go to her with anything from help on a math problem, to a skinned knee, to a hug or emotional support,” wrote Amanda Hilliard, a classroom teacher who nominated Debbie. Principal Jen Hansen added, “In my years spent as a special education teacher and principal, Debbie is one of the strongest paraprofessionals I’ve ever seen.”

Support Services and Security

Tim Gilligan | Ridgway High School, Santa Rosa City Schools
Student Advisor Tim Gilligan has served at Ridgway High School since 1985. Since then, “he has been integral in helping develop the respected alternative education option our district offers struggling students,” says Ridgway Principal Valerie Jordan. She added that he is gifted at communicating with students who are not succeeding, encouraging them to stay, work, and reach their dream of graduation.


  • Pieded Flores, Geyserville Elementary, Geyserville School District
  • Lucero Garcia Martinez, Ridgway High School, Santa Rosa City Schools
  • Katie Hernandez, Olivet Elementary Charter, Piner-Olivet Union School District
  • Lynda Higson, La Tercera Elementary, Old Adobe Union School District
  • Rocio Lopez, El Camino High School, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District
  • Anne Nethercut, Ridgway High School, Santa Rosa City Schools
  • Ryan Halverson, Elsie Allen High School, Santa Rosa City Schools