Sonoma County Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Recognized for Support for Students
The Sonoma County Board of Education and Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools have been recognized by the California School Boards Association with a prestigious Golden Bell Award for their work supporting student recovery from natural disaster traumas.
Through a string of natural disasters that began with the 2017 North Bay wildfires, the county board and superintendent have supported work by the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) to develop a mental health crisis response team, a crisis support plan to be used by SCOE employees, and a playbook to be used by other county offices of education when crises affect their schools or districts.
Beginning with the arrival of the Tubbs and Nuns fires in October 2017, which prompted a 1 a.m. phone call seeking school resources to assist in evacuating and housing displaced residents, SCOE has played a growing role in helping to shape Sonoma County’s response to a string of natural disasters.
SCOE relied upon and adapted the playbook developed during the 2017 firestorm, which destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and businesses, during a string of subsequent disasters. These included severe winter flooding and the massive Kincade Fire in 2019, the latter of which prompted the evacuation of about 200,000 Sonoma County residents. In 2020, Sonoma County faced two more federal disaster fires in the Walbridge and Glass fires, which prompted additional evacuations and disrupted school operations.
In 2018, the county board supported staff from SCOE as they assisted education officials in Butte County when the Camp Fire destroyed the entire town of Paradise and caused significant damage in Magalia.
During times of crisis, the board and County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Herrington have repeatedly supported SCOE staff as they assist districts throughout California with attendance accounting, emergency waivers, salary advances to employees who have lost housing, and collecting and processing donations made to aid school districts. Staff have also collaborated with other disaster-affected county offices to document how to prepare for disasters.
“The California Golden Bell Award is a great honor,” Herrington said. “It is highly unusual for a county board and office to receive this recognition, which is usually awarded to districts. Our staff and board’s level of concern and care for our students is exemplary and deserving of this recognition.”
The Sonoma County Board of Education consists of Board President Peter Kostas (Area 2) and Board Members Gina Cuclis (Area 1), Andrew Leonard (Area 3), Lisa Wittke Schaffner (Area 4), and Herman G. Hernandez (Area 5).
The board and representatives from SCOE will be honored at CSBA’s Golden Bell Awards reception and ceremony on Dec. 1 in San Diego.
About the Golden Bell Awards
The CSBA Golden Bell Awards® promote excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. Golden Bell Awards reflect the depth and breadth of education programs and governance decisions supporting these programs that are necessary to address students’ changing needs.