Heliodoro Ortiz, Dawn Kardos, Karen Pedroza, Lima Omar and Fernando Sotelo

Six Capistrano Unified School District classified employees have been named “2019 Classified Employees of the Year” for their outstanding commitment to enrichthe lives of all students. District officials, colleagues, friends and family gathered to honor 134 nominees at the district’s annual Classified Employee of the Year Awards Ceremony on May 6, 2019. The annual event announces one exceptional school employee from each of the six categories: Office and Technical Support; Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance; Maintenance and Operations; Transportation; Support Services and Security; and Child Nutrition.
“Our classified employees are extraordinary examples of our dedicated and professional staff who work so hard to support the teaching and learning of our young people each day,” said Superintendent Kirsten Vital. “Oftentimes, they are providing support for our students and families out of the spotlight and behind the scenes, but what they do is critical to the social, emotional, and academic success of our students, and we could not operate our district without them.”
Below are this year’s honorees:
Office and Technical Support: Fernando Sotelo
Academic Advisor – San Juan Hills High School
As an Academic Advisor, Fernando Sotelo manages a caseload of over 450 high school students ranging from grades 9-12, providing services to students aspiring to achieve their academic, career and personal development goals. Mr. Sotelo monitors the graduation and college eligibility progress, provides support to several programs on campus, and has collaborated extensively with
outside organizations to provide resources, workshops, and events to students in the areas of college preparation, counseling, and financial aid. Mr. Sotelo is an incredible asset to his school community. His work ethic and commitment to the students has been exceptional and he remains a valuable part of the guidance team.
Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance: Karen Pedroza
Independence Facilitator – Dana Hills High School
Karen Pedroza is described by her colleagues as having the ability to do anything with a smile. Ms. Pedroza works to develop and coordinate unique opportunities and programs for students. This year, she organized a grant program from the Orange County Department of Education to teach students about waste reduction, brought in kickboxers and instructors such as Billy Blanks to teach a Thai Bo boxing lesson, coordinated student tours of the Ritz Carlton and Montage resorts to learn about career opportunities, and facilitated a “stranger danger” seminar with Get Safe. Ms. Pedroza brings an enthusiastic positive attitude to work every day that is infectious, and is a daily morale booster for students, staff and teachers.
Maintenance and Operations: Roman Sangalang
Custodian III – Capistrano Valley High School
Roman Sangalang has served the students and staff of Capistrano Valley High School for the last 24 years. From day one, he jumped in and responded to any needs that were asked of him. Mr. Sangalang is a reliable member of the custodial team with an unwavering commitment to provide the best possible customer service to students, parents and staff who use the school facilities on a daily basis. He ensures the campus is clean, safe and secure for everyone to enjoy. There is nothing Mr. Sangalang would not do for his campus.
Transportation: Lima Omar
Transportation Dispatcher
Lima Omar has worked for the district for the last 21 years. During this time, her priority has always been student and bus driver safety. Ms. Omar is a team player and critical part of the Dispatch team, always arriving to work with a great attitude and is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Additionally, Ms. Omar is one of the Job Stewards for Teamsters Local 952. In this capacity, she is passionate about supporting the drivers while never forgetting the safety of
the students, investing much of her own time into helping her team members. Ms. Omar consistently demonstrates the ability and willingness to work positively, respectfully, and effectively with others, and she has significantly improved customer service and increased parent’s satisfaction in her area. She is an outstanding asset to the Transportation Department.
Support Services and Security: Heliodoro Ortiz
Storekeeper/Delivery Driver
Helio Ortiz has worked for the district for the last 20 years, coordinating the various drivers who take materials to all our school sites and departments. Mr. Ortiz is consistently efficient and accurate in performing his duties. He communicates clearly and concisely with parties throughout the district in a way that enhances operational efficiency. With five children attending school in Capistrano Unified, Mr. Ortiz has participated in many school events as both an involved parent and community member. His dedication to Capistrano Unified School District can be seen on the job, on the playing field, and at the school events in which his children participate.
Child Nutrition: Dawn Kardos
Lead Food Service Worker II – Marco Forster Middle School
Dawn Kardos has worked in Food Services at Marco Forster Middle School for over 20 years. This school site has the largest count of kitchen staff personnel of any of our middle schools. Ms. Kardos manages this operation with ease. She has developed a talent for instilling confidence in her team, providing continuous coaching and teaching to help them realize their potential. Her warm and nurturing style of leadership has changed the entire dynamic of the staff. Ms. Kardos is a positive influence wherever she goes and is a flagship lead.
Classified employees may be nominated by the Superintendent, a school or District administrator, supervisor, colleague, student, parent, employee organization officer, or civic leader. Nomination recommendations focus on the nominee’s work performance, school community involvement, leadership and commitment. Six nominees are then selected by a committee as the District’s 2019 Classified Employees of the Year. The six employees now advance to the Orange County Department of Education’s Classified School Employee of the Year program, based on guidelines and timelines established by the California Department of Education.
Pictures and video from the Classified Employee of the Year celebration are enclosed.