Sonoma County Office of Education

Classified Staff Celebrated during SCOE Reception

04/29/2024 -

Classified School Employee of the YearThe Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) recognized 30 exceptional classified school employees from throughout the county during its 2024 Sonoma County Classified School Employee of the Year reception on Wednesday, April 24.

The recognition program honors the vital contributions of classified staff, a group of school employees that support student learning but do not need to be certified to work in their role. This year, SCOE received the largest number of nominations for the program in at least a decade.

This year’s reception celebrated six finalists and 24 nominees, each who were nominated by their supervisors across six categories: clerical and administrative services; custodial and maintenance services; food and nutrition services; paraprofessional services; security services; and technical services. The finalists are Sonoma County’s selections for potential statewide recognition.

Last week’s program was just a small token of appreciation for Sonoma County’s exceptional classified employees, who do so much for Sonoma County students, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amie Carter said.

“From the food service workers who provide our students with nutritious meals so they can focus on learning, to the paraprofessional staff who serve our county’s most vulnerable students, our schools and districts could not provide the high-quality instruction and care that they do without the contributions of classified staff,” Carter said.

Nominees and finalists were presented with a certificate of excellence and a bouquet of flowers during the reception. Finalists in each category additionally received a $100 gift card sponsored by Exchange Bank. Their supervisors were invited to speak about the contributions each finalist makes on their campus or worksite.

Cali Calmécac Language Academy Principal Lidia Teruel-Albert, who nominated Paraprofessional Services finalist Patricia Guzmán, touted Guzmán’s enthusiastic involvement at the school. Guzmán regularly participates in school activities and took the initiative to create a Zumba program for school families and teachers, Teruel-Albert said.

“She never says no to anything that we present to her,” Teruel-Albert said during the reception. “No matter the challenge, (Patricia) says, ‘I’m there, I’m doing it,’ and she runs with it as a leader with the team that she has.”

Sarah French, an administrative operations specialist at SCOE, spoke about the tenacious work ethic exhibited by Asmerom Tesfai, a lead custodian at the county office who was selected as the finalist for the Custodial and Maintenance Services category.

“He approaches every task with professionalism, care, and consideration,” French said during the reception. “He makes an effort to connect with staff and students … (and) is a joy to work with.”

Keep reading to learn more about the finalists and nominees of the 2024 Classified School Employee of the Year program.

2024 Finalists

Alma Contreras

Clerical and Administrative Services: Alma Contreras | Bilingual Special Education Administrative Assistant | Roseland School District

“(Alma’s) communication and language interpretation skills exist beyond mere translation; instead, she becomes a cultural liaison who has a unique ability to understand the concerns and needs of all those around the table, enhancing the team’s ability to come to consensus around even the most complex issues or disagreements.”
-Roseland Special Education Programs Director Kevin Bean

Custodial and Maintenance Services: Asmerom Tesfai | Lead Custodian | Sonoma County Office of Education

“Asmerom’s familiarity with SCOE’s student population and knowledge of what’s needed within our specialized classroom environments is what contributes to (his) excellence. He takes the significant needs of the students with medical conditions into consideration.”
-SCOE Facilities, Operations, and Maintenance Administrative Operations Specialist Sarah French.

Asmerom Tesfai

Terese Hillborn

Food and Nutrition Services: Terese Hillborn | Food Service Program Coordinator | Oak Grove Union School District

“Terese consistently demonstrates excellence in their work performance. They are dependable, organized, and exhibit a high-energy, can-do attitude that motivates their team and elevates the standard of service.”
-Oak Grove Chief Business Official Amy Prescott

Paraprofessional Services: Patricia Guzmán | Paraprofessional Instructional Aide | Cali Calmécac Language Academy

“Patricia Guzman has consistently demonstrated strong leadership skills and a commitment to the well-being of our school. Her ability to inspire and motivate others, coupled with her willingness to take on additional responsibilities, has positively impacted the overall school environment.”
-Cali Calmécac Principal Lidia Teruel-Albert

Patricia Guzman

Sean Geske

Security Services: Sean Geske | School Safety Supervisor | Cloverdale High School

“He serves as a role model and mentor, creating a supportive environment that encourages personal and academic growth. His ability to balance firmness with genuine care and restorative practices is a testament to his exceptional interpersonal skills.”
-Cloverdale Principal Forrest Harper

Technical Services: Jeffrey Tast | Technology Assistant | Roseland School District

“Whether it’s tackling challenging projects or handling day-to-day tasks, Jeff consistently surpassed expectations, delivering high-quality work and demonstrating a strong work ethic. . . . In his interactions with school employees, students, and parents, Jeff has consistently treated everyone with respect and appreciation.”
-Roseland Director of Technology and Information Services Dee Khaleck

Jeffrey Tast

2024 Nominees

Clerical and Administrative Services:
-Maria Campos-Orona, Translator & Interpreter, Sonoma Valley High School
-Brigitte DeLeon, Site Account Clerk, Analy High School
-Cindy Deuel, Administrative Secretary, Santa Rosa City Schools
-Michelle Garcia, School Office Coordinator, Sonoma County Office of Education
-Lorena Gies, Attendance Clerk, Penngrove Elementary School
-Lisa Greenstein, Administrative Assistant, Maria Carrillo High School
-Dana Gustafson, School Account Clerk, Petaluma Junior High School
-Jenny Reeder, Human Resources Credentials Analyst, Sonoma County Office of Education
-Dawn Salas, School Manager, Twin Hills Union School District
-Mary Santillanez, Business Technician, Roseland School District
-Nancy Siebert, Registrar, Analy High School
-Amanda Snook, Division Support Specialist, Sonoma County Office of Education
-Theresa Thomasson, School Manager, SunRidge Elementary School
-Shantina Willits, Senior School Secretary, Grant Elementary School

Custodial and Maintenance Services
-Tony Baca, Head Custodian, Kenilworth Junior High School
-Alejandro Escarcega Martinez, Custodian, Cloverdale High School
-Rene Rodriguez, Lead Custodian, Brooks Elementary School
-Margaret Shafer, Lead Custodian, Washington School

Food and Nutrition Services
-Staci Smith, Lead Food Service Worker, West Sonoma County Union High School District

Paraprofessional Services
-Norma Diaz, Instructional Assistant, Geyserville Elementary School
-Kathleen Linn, Library Manager, Cloverdale Unified School District
-Deepti Singh, Instructional Assistant, Valley Vista Elementary School

Technical Services
-Paul Ringlein, Network and Systems Administrator, Windsor Unified School District