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School administrators roll up their sleeves
Turlock Unified School District Director of Professional Development Kea Willett trims hedges during Appreciating Classified Employees Day. Pitman High School landscaper Richie Fuentes advises Willett while she performs one of his routine tasks. Willett, along with other TUSD officials, including Superintendent Sonny Da Marto and Board of Trustees President Frank Lima participated in the event on Thursday. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Turlock Unified School District administration and trustees rolled up their sleeves and went to work with classified employees on Thursday in recognition of Appreciating Classified Employees (ACE) Day.

Classified employees are those who work jobs such as landscaping, custodial, teacher aides, secretarial, campus supervisors, maintenance and food service.

The classified employees’ labor union, the Classified Service Employees Association (CSEA) sponsors the event each year in districts throughout the state.

Kea Willett, TUSD director of Professional Development, spent the day working alongside Pitman High maintenance landscaper Richie Fuentes. Willett racked leaves, trimmed hedges and used power tools.

“I now have a tremendous appreciation for what these guys do every day. I have always kind of just taken for granted how nice our campuses look but I certainly won’t now,” she said after an hour of hard, outdoor labor.

Fuentes said he appreciated the district officials coming out and doing hard work.

“A lot of people don’t realize what we do and the depth of our work,” he said.

Pitman High, known for its lush, wide open fields of green grass has three landscapers, two of whom work part-time covering Turlock Junior High three days a week. In a given week the three will spend as much a 20 total labor hours picking up trash in the quad area of campus, on top of their regular job of mowing the lawns, trimming bushes, sprinkler system repair, pool maintenance and cosmetic repair such as removing graffiti.

TUSD Board of Trustees President Frank Lima spent his morning hours replacing boards on the bleachers at Joe Debeley Stadium. Later he went to Pitman for a ride-a-long with campus supervisor Jamie Nascimento.

During the ride-a-long Lima saw first-hand the enormous responsibility campus supervisors hold.

“They keep kids moving and making sure they are doing the right thing, as well as keeping them safe. I’ve always appreciated what classified staff do for our schools but every time I see them I realize what a tremendous amount of work it is to keep these schools running,” he said. “I’ve never taken their work lightly; I realize how much work goes into a school district with 13,000 students running.”

Kyle Harvey, CSEA labor representative, appreciated administration stepping up and helping classified employees.

“This really makes the relationship better; it’s good to see they want to be involved. We’re proud of all our guys, they work their butts off. They need to be treated with more respect and this program brings to light that these people work hard and they love to serve the kids,” he said.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.