Ceres High School Principal Linda Stubbs was honored as the 2015 Secondary Principal of the Year and Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services Jay Simmonds was named Career Technical Education Leader of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
The awards were bestowed Friday evening at ACSA's Leadership Summit held in Sacramento.
The pair also claimed the same titles for Region 7.
As Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services, Simmonds oversees the Child Welfare & Attendance and Special Education departments for Ceres Unified, as well as Educational Options which encompasses preschool, the after-school program, adult education and career technical education (CTE).
"Jay is committed to providing opportunities for all students to reach their potential, whether going on to college or to living-wage careers," said Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Scott Siegel.
Simmonds has built relationships with businesses and community leaders that have been instrumental to programs such as a manufacturing training center that provides opportunities for students to learn manufacturing skills, and an agriculture training center where students grow produce used in school lunches.
"Over 1,400 high school students are participating in our CTE programs each year," Siegel noted.
Simmonds, who has been employed by Ceres Unified School District for 24 years, had been previously honored by ACSA as Educational Options Administrator of the Year at the Regional 7 level in 2001-02.
"It was a surprise," said Simmonds, a Hughson resident. "I am very humbled and appreciative. The award is not for me. It's for the students, teachers and administrators who have done a wonderful job with the career technical programs."
Simmonds said CUSD is "very committed to the student. We take our jobs very seriously. That's why we produce so many state-award winners."
Stubbs noted that this was the first time that two employees of CUSD have been recognized at the state level within the same year.
"We're making a difference and people care about it," said Stubbs. "We're doing the right things for kids. That's our priority."
Stubbs, who has been at Ceres High for 11 years and principal for seven, said she was both stunned and honored when she learned she was chosen.
"I can think of a lot of other principals that are more deserving," said Stubbs. "There are a lot of people who work hard in education. That's why it's very humbling. We have strong leadership at the district office."
Stubbs said the true satisfaction in being an educator lies in making a difference.
"Every day is new and exciting. It is a huge responsibility to be an educator and I feel that weight on my shoulders."
Stubbs' commitment to creating a powerful impact on student learning and high quality instruction was essential to her selection.
As principal of Ceres High School, Stubbs finds that she draws on the challenges and skills she learned in her previous career as a retail manager.
"I saw firsthand how effective leaders can implement real change that affects large numbers of people," she said.
Working with students is still the best part of Stubbs' job, even as a site principal. Though she very much enjoyed her four and a half years in the classroom, she noted that school leadership is still teaching - but on a different scale.
"I teach adults now, through professional development for staff, through one-on-one conversations with teachers and faculty members, or through collaborative work and conversations as the site moves toward meeting our goals," said Stubbs.
In the course of this work, Stubbs said she has a greater impact on more students than she did at the classroom level.
"I hope that through my leadership, our teachers are better able to equitably serve all of our students and ensure that every student's academic, social and emotional needs are met," she said.
In nominating Mrs. Stubbs for the ACSA award, Siegel commended her ability to lead staff in supporting student achievement through quality instruction.
"Linda lives out the vision that powerful teaching yields powerful learning," Siegel said. "She embraces technology as a tool to supplement instruction, has led staff in implementing programs and practices that support the ‘whole' student, and has created a culture of collaboration and appreciation at her site."
At training sessions and staff meetings, Stubbs keeps the focus on ways to improve instruction, while incorporating tenets of successful professional learning communities (PLC). Her priority is to provide a school culture that supports quality instruction leading to high levels of student engagement, active learning and achievement.
"We started our journey as a PLC school three years ago, so we really are just starting out," said Stubbs. "One of the first shifts for us - and probably the hardest one - is moving from focusing on what teachers are teaching to what students are learning. In all of our lesson planning and work in content teams, teachers are focused on the essential standards -what do students absolutely need to know to be successful in the next course? We strive to have all students master those essential standards. Then we need to check for understanding often, have common formative assessments that align to the essential standards, and look at the data to ensure our students are learning."
Stubbs said the PLC process has changed the culture of her school.
"We are not perfect in our endeavors, but it is the growth of both the students and staff that is so exciting and keeps me focused... I am learning every day how to be a better leader through this process."
Stubbs said she is committed to creating and sustaining long-term change and meeting the needs of the "whole" student, which has led to the implementation of successful programs that address instructional standards, academic interventions, discipline, mentoring and career technical education.
Many of these programs involve collaborative partnerships with parents, as well as the community, and include the highly successful Ceres High Manufacturing Academy. Recently awarded a $600,000 grant from the California Careers Pathway Trust, the idea for the academy came from local businesses.
Stubbs said the school community asked what types of skills were needed of employees and then built the academy around those needs.
"Businesses provide mentors for our students, job shadowing opportunities, and paid internships," she said. "Our graduating seniors are in high demand by both businesses and colleges and universities."
Stubbs said that without the academy, more at-risk students would not graduate from high school, let alone advance to college or to a well-paying job.
"The staff involved in the academy are dedicated to the students and do whatever it takes to ensure their success," she said.