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TUSD recognizes administrative standouts
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Turlock Unified School District’s usual Admin Council End of Year Recognitions for the 2019-2020 school year were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, so this week they took the time to celebrate seven individuals who go above and beyond for students, faculty and staff.

Honoree Denise Duewell coordinates TUSD’s induction program, which was recently awarded “Full Accreditation Status” by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing — the first in the state to do so.

“Denise Duewell led new teachers through hours od reflection, guidance, observation and (professional development) that provided extensive support while successfully modifying expectations and program requirements for distance learning last spring,” TUSD said. “She leads with a nurturing and reflective approach which teacher inductees highly value and appreciate.”

Countless inductee and mentor testimony praising Duewell’s leadership of the induction program was cited by the accreditation committee.

“We are extremely grateful to have Denise serving new teachers in our District who find trust and support as they begin their educational careers,” TUSD said.

Also honored was Gil Ogden, Director of Student Services who has worked within TUSD for 25 years and “demonstrates outstanding expertise with regard to many procedural aspects of education including laws, regulations and compliance.”

Ogden is the District’s “go-to” guy for implementing new projects, most recently taking the lead on TUSDtv to create a new venue for students, staff and the community to continue learning and connecting in meaningful ways during the COVID-19 school closures.

“Gil coordinated all aspects of the project — supporting, encouraging and mentoring the many staff members who shared their passion and talents each week,” TUSD said. “…He makes the US in TUSD stronger while keeping efforts focused on what’s best for kids!”

TUSD’s new Director of Child Nutrition Jennifer Lew-Vang began her new career path just 17 days before the pandemic began and was able to reinvent the District’s meal plan in the face of the crisis.

“With few established relationships, a new staff and a new District, Jennifer immediately pulled her team together to problem-solve collaboratively and provide the most immediate and visible government response to the global pandemic,” TUSD said. “not only did Jennifer and her team provide tens of thousands of meals to our community, she orchestrated TUSD to provide the very first USDA food box on the west coast.”

In addition, Lew-Vang spearheaded the acquisition of PPE for staff and students.

“Jennifer’s impact in the short time she has been with TUSD has been immeasurable and truly appreciated,” TUSD said.

Medeiros Elementary School Assistant Principal Jeff Persons was also recognized thanks to his ability to develop positive relationships at every grade span and site where he has had the privilege to lead. From inspiring stories to beloved songs, Persons served as the face of TUSDtv and “made an indelible impression on community members throughout Turlock, truly sharing the best of US in TUSD.”

Director of Maintenance and Operations Scott Richardson oversaw sanitization at all sites in the face of a pandemic, coordinating the acquisition of hand sanitizer, signage, barriers and much more while dealing with an unsteady workforce due to the circumstances.

“Scott’s leadership is a testament to the team he has built and supported over the years. Scott and his team, in their continued balance of obligations and pandemic-related responsibilities, continue to perform admirably during these uncertain times,” TUSD said. “It is said a great pitcher will always make a coach look good; in times like this Scott is definitely our close-out pitcher!”

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Shellie Santos was recognized for her connections with teachers across the District, which have been instrumental in successful adoptions, professional development implementations, and updates to instructional practices and PLCs. While using a combination of positive relationships and in-depth knowledge of standards, Shellie led efforts to continue effective instruction and learning for TK-6 students during school closures that began mid-March.

“These efforts included development and distribution of learning materials, refinement of priority standards, and coordination of multiple curricular and planning committees,” TUSD said. “…As a teacher at heart, Shellie worked creatively to make learning-at-home possible and fun for our young students so they continued to grow and thrive. TUSD is thankful for Shellie’s commitment and work on behalf of students and staff, especially during a difficult time for many.”

TUSD Chief Communication Coordinator Marie Russell has earned an “exemplary” reputation over the past three years in the position, TUSD said, effectively communicating with the public to immediately alert and share information. She has collaborated with principals and directors throughout the District, utilizing her site leadership experiences and creativity to produce timely communications and web-based work. Her success recently brought recognition to TUSD in 2020 with several CalSPRA Communication Awards.

“Most recently, Marie’s work to support our community during a national pandemic and historic focus on racism has been significant. Her guidance reinforced our efforts to remain consistent, neutral and empathetic,” TUSD said. “Additionally, Marie’s inherent ‘reads’ have been invaluable, particularly when media is filled with facts and opinions. TUSD is fortunate to have Marie on the front-line of communicating the US in TUSD.”