California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond awarded nine classified school employees, two of which work in pupil transportation, for their dedication to California’s public-school students.
Shannon Lauricella, a school bus driver for Garden Grove Unified School District in Orange County, is among those recognized. She has been a driver for nine years and is also a 2023 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Nominee. The RISE Award is a national honor and the winner will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in 2023.
According to her nomination, Lauricella is known by other drivers as “our work mom.” She devotes her time and talents to less experienced drivers and is always available to answer questions. Lauricella also assists kindergarten teachers, who she helps with various student assignments and projects. She is a member of the district’s bus roadeo team and mentors other drivers to prepare them for a statewide competition.
Timothy Romine, a mechanic at Orcutt Union Elementary School District in Santa Barbara County, was also honored. Romine has reportedly been with the district since 2012 and is the only mechanic. He maintains all the district’s school buses, work vehicles, maintenance trucks, and other transportation equipment. Jana Graham, the transportation coordinator for Orcutt, told School Transportation News that Romine also cares about his co-workers and their personal vehicles should they have questions or concerns.
According to his nomination, his work performance is exceptional and keeps all vehicles in the district’s fleet operating at the highest level possible. “He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and it shows in his work,” the nomination continues. “Tim constantly coaches and trains other employees who are using district vehicles or equipment.”
Graham added, “He prides himself in knowing that everyone is safe and will help out whenever needed to ensure all buses, and vehicles leave the district safely. One of Tim’s favorite quotes is ‘Safety First, Safety Last, Safety Always!’ He will never let a vehicle leave the yard if it is unsafe.
According to a press release from the California Department of Education, the annual program honors outstanding classified school employees from the following categories: paraprofessional services, clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, security services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades services.
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This year’s recipients were chosen from 123 nominations statewide. A selection committee evaluates each application using eligibility criteria and performance documentation in work performance, school and community involvement, leadership and commitment, local support from colleagues who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work, enhancement of classified school employee’s image in the community and the school, and any other areas the school deems exceptional and pertinent to the Classified School Employees of the Year Award.
Finalists are approved by Thurmond or his designee.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time for our students and families, and I want to congratulate these outstanding employees for going the extra mile to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn,” stated Thurmond. “These dedicated employees make sure kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes—helping keep them safe and supported in their lives and in their education.”