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Top school classified employees bestowed honors
Top classified school employees from Ceres, Hughson, Keyes and the rest of the county are being honored for their roles in making schools run smoothly from day to day so children may receive the best education they can.

People like Sinclear Elementary School janitor Diana Boyarsky, one of 28 outstanding classified staff members in Stanislaus County being honored with the sixth annual "Employees Making a Difference" Award.

Classified employees are school employees who are not required to have credentials nor supervise others.

Boyarsky said she feels privileged to have worked for over 23 years at CUSD, 17 years spent at Mae Hensley Junior High.

"I love being around the kids," said Boyarsky. "I'm a grandmother and that makes it even funner to be around kids. I work hard and have fun."

Besides being head custodian, Boyarsky is also president of the CSEA (California School Employees Association) Ceres chapter president.

"We have a great working relationship with the district and worked hard over the last several years doing that," she said of the CSEA. She helped win back a restoration of classified employee pay cuts enacted in recent years by the School Board to trim spending to revenue.

Another CUSD honoree, Brian Chandler helps in another way from the district headquarters. Nominated by John Christiansen and Julie Martin, Chandler is an administrative assistant with CUSD's Child Welfare and Attendance Division. He is a truant officer who works on SARB (School Attendance Review Board) cases. Chandler also works with "families in transition" by keeping students attending school even if they temporarily relocated outside the district with transportation assistance such as bus passes.

Chandler has worked with CUSD since 2001 and in his present job since 2006.

The 28 were honored at a special reception held yesterday at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center in Modesto. The program was hosted by the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Stanislaus Charter.

Each district was eligible to send in a certain number of nominees based on district student population sizes. Ceres nominated two, Hughson one and Keyes one.

Others being recognized are Sharon De Greek, a retired Adkison Elementary School food service worker; Marlene James, a Keyes Union School District paraprofessional; and Carla Rodrigues, a Ross Middle School principal's secretary in Hughson.

DeGreek is being honored even though she retired on Dec. 20 after 21 years with the CUSD food service program. When she was nominated by Adkison Principal Brian Murphy and administrative assistant Lorenzo Armendariz.

She started working in cafeterias in 1991 at Ceres High School. Then she moved to Sam Vaughn Elementary and then Adkison when it opened in 2005.

"I really enjoyed it," said DeGreek of her job as a cook. "The high school was a learning experience and I found that I liked working with kids and when I got over to the elementary site I learned that I really liked working with the young kids."

DeGreek noted that classified school staff are often overworked and unappreciated.

"There's a lot of work put on you and they're cutting back everywhere you turn so we have to pick up the slack," said DeGreek.

At age 64, she decided "it was time to retire" especially since she had some medical issues and her husband already retired two years ago. She wants to travel and have fun now.

"My job means quite a bit to me," said Rodrigues. "I take great pride and joy in what I do. It requires wearing many different hats and constantly multi-tasking, but at the end of the day I am fulfilled. I feel that there is nothing more fulfilling than being involved in the nurturing process of students. I enjoy watching the students grow and mature as the years go on. I would have to say that the aspect that I enjoy most is working together with all our staff to help our students get the most out of middle school and to prepare them for their high school years. I also enjoy meeting all the parents and working with them throughout the year to put on special events for our students."

Rodrigues, who has been at the school for five years, was nominated by Ross Middle School principal Ryan Smith. She previously worked seven years as a principal's secretary at Delhi Unified School District.

"This program helps us recognize the efforts of some of our outstanding classified employees, many who are unsung heroes behind the scenes, yet critical to the education of our children," said Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon.

He is familiar with Marlene James, a Keyes Elementary School paraprofessional who is also being honored with the award. Changnon was superintendent of the Keyes Union School District when James started there 15 years.

A reading intervention specialist for kindergartners and first-graders, James said that her one-on-one time with students allows her to be keyed into "what a student is capable of more than a teacher might know."

"I just think what I apply just comes from my heart," said Marlene. "I love this job. I would not trade this for anything. It's just so rewarding once they get it."

Employees were nominated from the following service areas: Child Nutrition; Maintenance/Operations; Office/Technical; Para Educators/Instructional Assistants; and Support Services/Security.

Five of the 28 nominees will be selected to represent Stanislaus County in the California School Employee of the Year program, coordinated by the California Department of Education.

According to Stanislaus Charter ACSA President Scott Borba, the local organization is again pleased to partner with the county in this effort.

"Our classified employees have a vital role in educating students," said Borba. "They provide a healthy, supportive, and well maintained educational institute which allows teachers to teach students in an optimal environment."

New to the program this year is a Civility Award named in honor of former SCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Johnston, who helped launch the county-wide Choose Civility Initiative in 2010 and passed away unexpectedly last April. Johnston advocated for and co-chaired the Employees Making a Difference Program from 2008 to 2012, and was active with the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County.

"Jane was an exceptional model of civility at work and in our community," said Education Foundation Chairperson Carol Benson. "Thus, the Education Foundation thought it would be a fitting tribute to create this award in her memory." The Jane Johnston Civility Award will be presented to one of the 28 nominees who best exemplifies the principles of civility.