DUSD celebrates outstanding staff, retirees

Grand View Elementary School counselor Karis Borsotti poses for a photo after receiving an excellence in education award at the DUSD Excellence in Education Awards and Retiree Celebration at Washington Intermediate School in Dinuba May 21, 2024.(Serena Bettis)

Dinuba Unified School District employees receive Excellence in Education honors, celebrate long-term service

DINUBA – Teachers, administrators and classified staff gathered in the Washington Intermediate School gymnasium to celebrate Dinuba Unified School District (DUSD) employees recognized for their outstanding work this school year and to honor long-time employees and retirees. 

During the annual DUSD Excellence in Education Awards and Retiree Celebration on May 21, Superintendent Joe Hernandez and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Communication Marti Kochevar announced the honorees. They also shared words of support and gratitude, which were written by school principals and fellow staff members.

“Tonight, we have heard inspiring stories and well-deserved recognitions and felt the overwhelming sense of community and commitment that defines our educational family,” Hernandez said. “Your unwavering dedication to our student’s success is truly remarkable and does not go unnoticed. You are the heart and soul of our schools, and your impact extends far beyond the classroom walls.”

Staff members who have worked for the district for 20 or 30 years received special pins as recognitions for their many years of service, and staff members who plan to retire at the end of the school year were celebrated with kind words from their peers. Additionally, employees from each school who were nominated for Excellence in Education awards were honored and the Classified Employee of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Administrator of the Year awards were announced.

The Classified Employee of the Year award went to Rita Leon, an administrative assistant in the Special Student Services department. Director of Special Student Services Adriana Baza said that Leon thinks of every detail to make sure the department’s guests feel comfortable and taken care of.

“Rita is the heart of our department and she strives for continuous improvement,” Baza said. “We are very proud of the work she does and could not aim for excellence without her.” 

Dinuba High School counselor Evan Halstead was awarded the 2024 Administrator of the Year award. DHS Principal Andrew Popp called Halstead the epitome of a servant leader at DHS and said he is unwavering, positive, creative, enthusiastic and determined.

“Evan positively contributes to our school culture through his leadership of programs, creating new programs to support students, being a positive leader and thinking outside the box,” Popp said. “By creating Dinuba Dynasty, he has positively changed students’ academic and social-emotional behaviors tremendously.”

DHS agriculture teacher Nicole Borba received the 2024 Teacher of the Year award and was recognized for her work as an ambassador to Dinuba’s award-winning Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter, which she helped lead to the national competition.

“She is without question one of the most caring and dedicated teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Popp and fellow FFA teacher Miles Robinson said of Borba. “She sets the standard for greatness and approaches her work with students with an open heart and an open mind, always striving to seek the best from her students, encouraging them to realize their potential.”

Six employees are retiring from DUSD this year, including William Olinger, Arnie Kriegbaum, Christin Day, Sheryl Tabutol, Lori George and Victoria Armstrong.

For 20 years of service, DUSD recognized the following staff members: Maria Garcia, Lorraine Hood, Noe Larralde, Susan Moss, Terri Serpa, Susie Arenas, Carlos Barajas, Christopher Butterfield, Julie Felix, Mario Cavazos, Angie Chavez, Kelly Garcia, Sandra Gomez, Ana Herevia, Brent Morrelli, Sonia Perales Vidal, Jesus Soto Toscano and Cindy Kaljumagi. For 30 years, DUSD recognized Juan Ibarra, Sharon Perkins and Jeff Harris.

Excellence in Education honorees included: Richard Medina and Karis Borsotti, Grand View Elementary; Michele Hall and Maria Gongora, Jefferson Elementary; Alfonso Navarro and Kianna Ortega, Kennedy Elementary; Lori Dahill and Valerie Delgadillo, Lincoln Elementary; Stephanie Amodo and Christina Mejorado, Roosevelt Elementary; Amber Paredez and Gisela Gonzalez, Wilson Elementary; Reyna Rivera and Febe Cabrera, Washington Intermediate School; Ryan Coats, alternative education; Jose Cavazos, Dinuba High; and Diana Islas, district office.

“As we move forward, let’s carry the spirit of tonight’s celebration with us,” Hernandez said. “Let it remind us of the power of education and the profound difference that each of you makes in the lives of our students. Together, we will continue to strive for excellence, support one another and inspire the next generation.”

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