Hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues and school officials joined to celebrate the San Ramon Valley school district's Classified Employees of the Year during an evening ceremony Tuesday in Danville.
The district recognized 44 classified workers, with one recipient from each campus and district department, in positions such as school office assistant, paraeducator, custodian, bus driver and district analyst.
The night's top honor, district-wide Classified Employee of the Year, went to Jeri Sutherland, a library media coordinator with the district for 28 years, including the past 18-plus at Danville's Tassajara Hills Elementary School.
"Classified employees, you are a critical component for what makes this the best educational experience for kids in the state of California. Thank you so much for everything you do every single day," school board president Greg Marvel said to close the recognition event.
More than 300 people packed in for the standing-room only presentation at Danville's Diablo Vista Middle School. The ceremony, which takes place annually during a school board meeting, outgrew the board's normal meeting space at the district's administrative complex, necessitating the shift to Diablo Vista's multipurpose room.
"These 44 superstars are San Ramon Valley's Classified Employees of the Year," Keith Rogenski, assistant superintendent of human resources, said after introducing each recipient Tuesday night.
Superintendent Mary Shelton followed by presenting Sutherland with the district Classified Employee of the Year award.
"Mrs. Sutherland and all the employees honored are to be commended for their dedication to our students, staff and parents," Shelton said in a follow-up statement. "Our Employees of the Year are the exemplars of the professionalism that takes place in our schools."
Sutherland has worked as Tassajara Hills' library media coordinator since the campus opened along Camino Tassajara just outside Blackhawk in 1997.
"I don't stand here alone," she told the audience Tuesday. "I stand and I follow a whole corps of women from libraries across the district over the last 28 years. And I stand along with my colleagues ... as they do the same thing I do on a daily basis."
"I appreciate our classified staff. We all work really hard to make San Ramon Valley Unified School District what it is today," she added.
Sutherland now advances as the district's nominee for recognition at the county level.
"Jeri runs a library that welcomes students and excites them about reading. Through her talents, the library has been transformed into a beautiful, colorful, child-friendly space to read and explore literature," Tassajara Hills principal Ann Dodson said in a statement.
"Jeri knows every child's name at the school and makes an effort to connect with every student," Dodson added. "She finds the good in children and has a real heart for children who struggle with feeling connected to their peers."