Santa Barbara County’s 2023 Classified School Employees of the Year

By the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO)

The Santa Barbara County Education Office is proud to announce the award winners of the 2023 Classified School Employees of the Year. Described as vital assets to their school communities, winners were selected from 125 school sites across Santa Barbara County.

The winners are: Kathleen Stevenson of Orcutt Union School District, Herk Hang of Lompoc Unified School District, Maria Charco of Santa Barbara Unified School District, Norma Flores of Lompoc Unified School District, and Diane Campo of Lompoc Unified School District. Read more about each winner below.

The Classified School Employees of the Year program was created by the California Department of Education (CDE) in recognition of the contributions of classified school employees who support the education of more than six million California public school students from preschool through grade twelve.

The program invites county education offices to select employees nominated by school districts in nine classified school employment categories: Clerical and Administrative; Custodial and Maintenance; Food and Nutrition; Health and Student Services; Paraprofessional; Security Services; Skilled Trades; Technical Services; and Transportation. The winners from each county are nominated for the statewide award in their respective category.

Our county’s winners were recently honored at a Santa Barbara County Board of Education meeting by County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido and members of the board. 

“Classified employees provide the essential services that keep our students safe, well, and learning,” Superintendent Salcido said. “They support teachers, school staff, and countless others to make our public school system the vital resource hub that it is for students and families. I congratulate the winners and appreciate the many contributions our classified employees make each and every day of the year.”

Please help us honor the Classified School Employee of the Year in your area.

In the category of “Clerical and Administrative”

Kathleen Stevenson, Orcutt Union School District

If there were a center for all that happens on the Orcutt Union School District’s busy Los Alamos campus, it would be Kathleen Stevenson. Kathleen has served for seven years as the office manager for the two schools on OUSD’s Los Alamos campus: Olga Reed School and the Orcutt Academy Charter School’s TK-8 program. She also assists with an SBCEO special day class on the campus, and a family resource center operated by a nonprofit foundation.

“Kathleen interacts daily with all visitors, assisting students and parents, welcoming substitute teachers, and fielding questions from neighbors. Somehow she manages to coordinate all of the activity on this bustling school site, and she does it with grace, warmth, and a genuine interest in helping,” says Brenda Galvez, who works in the school office as the campus community liaison. “Kathleen cares about everyone.”

In the category of “Custodial and Maintenance”

Herk Hang, Lompoc Unified School District

Herk Hang has served as the groundskeeper at Leonora Fillmore Elementary School for the past five years. He ensures that school grounds are kept clean, safe, and beautiful. The Fillmore staff said Hang is the reason why students and staff “walk onto campus feeling proud of where they learn and work.” “His commitment to our school shows through the inviting areas he has created throughout the campus.”

In the category of “Food and Nutrition”

Maria Charco, Santa Barbara Unified School District

Maria Charco has been a Food Services Assistant at La Cumbre Jr. High School for seven years. She contributes to the daily preparation of food, especially scratch-cooked meals, and serves students with excellent customer service. Maria’s colleagues remark that she is a great team player who always goes the extra mile for students. Her team said of her: “Maria is a great asset to the department and deserves any and all accolades.”

In the category of “Health and Student Services”

Norma Flores, Lompoc Unified School District

Norma Flores has dedicated almost 23 years to Leonora Fillmore Elementary School and the surrounding community and has served as a Home/School Community Liaison for 11 years. In her current role, she organizes the Student Study Team, Parent Teacher Association, Fillmore English Learner Advisory Committee, and school site council meetings in addition to attending and interpreting IEP meetings. Her team showered her with praise, saying: “Norma puts all staff members and families at ease with her approachable demeanor. She always has a smile on her face, is willing to do anything needed, and creates a positive feeling in our office.”

In the category of “Paraprofessional Services”

Diane Campo, Lompoc Unified School District

Diane Campo has served 16 years in her role as a special education paraprofessional at the Los Berros Visual and Performing Arts Academy. She supports students with autism as they participate in general education classrooms, ensuring that their instructional, behavioral, and social needs are met. Her colleagues shared with us that “Mrs. Campo is a true team player. She knows her responsibilities as a special education paraeducator and will do whatever needs to be done to meet the needs of the students she supports.” “We are very fortunate to have her on our Los Berros team.”


Written by SBCEO

Press releases written by the Santa Barbara County Office of Education. Learn more at

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  1. Transparent California has the salaries listed of the winners. I was particularly interested in how much the district pays a para educator of students with autism who has been with the district for 16 years. In 2016, with benefits which bi lingual para educators in SBUSD do not get, this para educators made 27,110.63. which is below the poverty line. In 2021, she made 34,751 which is also under the poverty line. In addition to awards , verbal praise and photo ops with the County Superintendent and County Board members it would be better to show appreciation in the form of a competitive, sustainable salary. It is surprising this para educator lasted as long as she did. But it does not seem like a fair wage for difficult, important work. This low pay rate hurts students who need stable, experienced support. At SBUSD very few stay on more than a year. A bilingual para educator makes 18.36 a hour .. no benefits. At least in SBUSD it is clear that there are bloated salaries at the top and anemic salaries for para educators and many teachers need competitive salaries and cost of living increase. Are students suffer when very few stay. As it is at SBUSD we lost most of our admin last year. Let’s stop the hemorrhage of staff so our students can have experienced teachers and not a district in crisis. Not much learning happens in crisis.

    • It’s a crime that the people who do the real work, with the hardest jobs get paid the least. I’m amazed SBCEO is allowed to remain open. If SBCEO’s $100 million budget went to the Schools, there would be plenty of money for Paraeducators to earn a living wage. When most of the State Education budget is siphoned away from the people who actually work directly with kids, you end up with wasteful bureaucracies like SBCEO who create PR events to try to keep their gravy train rolling.

    • Agree with the plight of poorly paid para-educators, but “we barely fund our schools” is far from true.
      In the last decade, per student funding has gone up 7.6% PER YEAR. That’s a growth rate almost three times faster than inflation. From $9,656/student in 2012 to $19,987/student in 2022. Average class size in the state is about 26 kids, which means the average classroom is funded to the tune of over ½ million dollars a year.
      How is that “barely funded”?
      The only reason people think that is because the education industry wants them to think that – because they’ve taken almost every dollar of that increase and put it into their own bank accounts in pay and benefit increases during that time.
      Not into things that create a better education for our kids.

    • Kudos to the county for honoring those in the trenches.
      It is common for para-educator type positions to be part time (less than 30 hours a week) and then only for 180 days in the year. This results in low pay and no benefits. And it is a vital position with no time for training either since they only work school days and need to be with the students. All of these people in schools deserve to be paid more. From the district perspective – it is cheaper to have three paras working part time than it is to have two working full time because of the incredible costs of health care. We barely fund our schools yet we all seem to acknowledge the importance of what they do. Meanwhile, some want to increase military spending…

  2. Goletaisgood: I appreciate your opinion but I think the district is short sighted particularly when it comes to para educators. Just to do what is cheapest is actually more expensive and less effective. It would be better to have a proactive culture focused on students needs not squeezing some employees while generously compensating many in admin. Our schools are funded well the money just is not spent prudently or equitably. So much goes to consultants for example and almost nothing goes to remediation to those student (well over half) who still can’t read proficiently. Listen to the 5/9 board meeting and you will hear first hand from a SB high school special ed teacher who teaches freshman saying so many can’t read proficiently and he has been pleading for change for the last few superintendents. Only students with parents with means do well. Far too many others can’t read at grade level and are not college ready. They may have a diploma but they did not take the required classes to even be eligible to apply to a UC, or CSU. Praise is nice but actions are more meaningful for staff and students.

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