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Honors All Around

Summary: Students and staff across the district are receiving prestigious honors. From Emmy nominations to national awards, check out their accomplishments.

Chief Sealth’s Coach P. is District 2 Athletic Director of the Year 

Chief Sealth International High School Athletic Director Ernest “Coach P.” Policarpio knows what it takes to lead a successful team. He’s spent the last 16 years at Sealth — seven of those years as athletic director — building a flourishing athletics program.  

A man stands holding an award
Coach P.

Policarpio was recently awarded the 2022 District 2 Athletic Director of the Year for his hard work and passion for athletics.  

“He is dedicated to his community, the Sealth campus, and West Seattle,” said Chief Sealth Principal Ray Garcia Morales.  

Not only is Policarpio the Athletic Director, he’s also a teacher, head baseball coach, Metro League tournament director, 3A region wrestling tournament director, and a board member of the Sea-King eligibility committee. Even though he has a full schedule, it doesn’t seem to slow him down or get in the way, according to Garcia-Morales. 

“He makes himself available, and he’s understanding and patient,” he said. “I think those are a lot of attributes of a great leader.”  

Runions Named CCR School Counselor of the Year 

The SPS College and Career Readiness (CCR) Department selected McDonald Elementary’s Katie Runions as the School Counselor of the Year. This program honors the best of the best in Seattle Schools – counselors who are providing excellent service in their comprehensive school counseling programming. Nominations for Counselor of the Year are submitted by the community and voted on by other district counselors. 

Three women and a man stand in front of a school. One woman is holding balloons and a certificate
Katie Runion holding balloons and her certificate of School Counselor of the Year.

“I feel proud that I am just one of many outstanding school counselors in our district working hard to help our students develop the tools they need to thrive in school and life,” Runions said. 

In her 18th year as a counselor and her third at McDonald, Runions’s devotion to her job runs deep. She used the year spent in remote learning to strengthen her relationship with families. 

“I love that every day my work is different and that every child’s story is different,” Runions said. “This has become one of my favorite aspects of the work I do.” 

Roosevelt DECA students win at Nationals 

Students in Roosevelt High School’s DECA club traveled to the International Career Development Conference in Atlanta in April. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the world. 

The team had a First in the World finish in the virtual business challenge for personal finance. Additionally, the team finished 8th in the Stock Market Game. Senior Isobel Goepferd, chapter president, won a medal for her outstanding test score in the Business Law and Ethics team decision making event. Roosevelt’s team of 23 students is led by Business teacher Michelle Carter and Marketing teacher Drew Tocco who also serves as the team’s head advisor. 

Ballard, Garfield score Student Emmy nominations 

Ballard and Garfield high schools earned an impressive nine combined Student Emmy nominations from the Northwest Region of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The Emmy competition spans productions entered in the 2021–2022-time span. 

Ballard’s Digital Filmmaking program earned five nominations while Garfield’s Video Production team grabbed four. Ballard High School is no stranger to the Emmys, as its program has garnered dozens of nominations and awards throughout the course of its program which spans several decades. In its third year, Garfield has had two years of success in the competition.  Ballard’s program is led by Steven Bradford. Garfield’s is taught by Jacques Pugh. 

Ballard teacher receives national recognition 

The Garden Club of America has selected Ballard High School teacher India Carlson for the prestigious Hull Award, given to outstanding educators who further the early environmental education of children. Carlson has worked as a botany and environmental horticulture teacher for 15 years. Currently, Carlson is working on the high school garden to have more edible plantings as well as completing a pollinator pathway garden. 


April Shout Outs

We Love Seattle Schools Librarians!

In honor of School Library Month, students, parents and colleagues offered words of gratitude to Seattle Public Schools’s librarians.  We received nearly 200 messages sharing accolades and appreciation for librarians around the district. Read some of the praise heaped upon SPS librarians: 

Chris Oswald (Adams Elementary): “He is a lively and fun storyteller.” – Angela Wilson, colleague 

Jessica Lindow (Arbor Heights Elementary): “She’s really nice, and she inspired me to be a librarian when I grow up!” Mallie Converse, student 

TuesD Chambers (Ballard High School): “Not only does the BHS library program encourage the love of reading but is an inclusive space that focuses on the social and emotional health of our students. Also, I’m a school librarian for a neighboring district, and Ms. Chambers inspires me professionally every day. Big fan!” – Amanda Workman, parent 

Jillian Kartchner (Broadview-Thomson K-8): “I love that Jillian aligns her curriculum with what I’m teaching in the classroom.  She recently had students bring their laptops to the library, and she taught them how to find a myriad of resources for their country reports.  In addition, Jillian is teaching students about safety on the internet and protecting their personal information and why that’s important.” – Tia Rizk, colleague 

Anne Aliverti (Bryant Elementary): “Ms. Aliverti does more than checking out books for us; she sets up so many fun activities like Shelf Elves and Global Reading! She also gets us interested in books and has us do fun activities. She made me like reading a lot more, and she’s sure to do the same for others!” – Katherine Spence, student 

Merrick Bodmer (Cascadia Elementary): “Ms. Bodmer inspires me to try out different genres of books, even if I do not think that I will like it. I love how she knows what I like and makes great book recommendations and is always ready to help.” – Kiskoli Dey, student 

Luke Azinger (Chief Sealth International High School): “Luke has packed our library full of titles that kids want to read! His displays are thematic and inviting and enticing, and I have never seen so many students happily perusing and then checking out book(s). Kids are consistently giving me book recommendations, which is amazing, and it’s all because Luke has inspired and re-invigorated a culture of reading at our school!” – Amber Allison, colleague 

LeAnn Miller (Decatur Elementary): “I like the schedule where I see Ms. Miller, the librarian, every Tuesday because then you can have something to look forward to every week. I simply like books. I am a bookworm and Ms. Miller helps me find books every time I need help to find books.” – Natan Silberstein, student 

Tyson Manzin (Garfield High School): “Mr. Manzin makes the library a welcoming place for all students.” – Louise Bendall, parent 

Morgan MacDonald (Hamilton International Middle School): “I find inspiration in her passion for students and staff finding content that engages, elevates, and/or broadens discussions and learning.  In returning from COVID, Morgan has been a consistent presence for students to find a book/adventure to escape, a positive place to express, or a quiet place to reflect.  I have really appreciated the identification of content that mirrors our themes on the Diversity Calendar we utilize in Advisory. Students are getting to see more representative models and cultural connections.” – Fred Butts, colleague   

Betty Brennan (Ingraham High School): “She is such a kind and caring person who always has the best interests of the students at heart. She is always helping students with their essays and giving all the best book suggestions. She inspires me to be kind and to give those who need it and to always be your best self.” – Naomi Armstrong, student 

Emily Christiansen (Jane Addams Middle School): “Emily is steeped in [Young Adult literature]. She knows something about all the books kids bring up to her. Her knowledgeable passion is an inspiration for a wide range of readers across all genres.” – Matthew Kirshman, colleague 

Janet Schooler (John Hay Elementary): “She reads books, and she’s nice, and she lets us open a box!” – Shaan Hasham, student 

Andrea Young (John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence): “I wanted to take a moment to write about a librarian for SPS who does all the work behind the scenes. Andrea Young is our district cataloger. Anyone who has ever looked up a book from the catalog can thank Andrea for her contributions. She makes sure new titles are entered, corrects errors, offers advice to librarians in the schools and can often be found printing barcodes for teacher-librarians late into the evenings. She’s kind and smart and has a mind like a steel trap when it comes to details that some of miss. SPS Librarians owe a lot to Andrea. Her behind-the-scenes support is priceless.” – Darcy Brixey, colleague 

Audra Gallegos (Lawton Elementary): “Audra is passionate about having books and other resources in the library that inspires students and staff alike – books that enlighten us by teaching perspectives or history we hadn’t been aware of in the past. Since Audra joined our staff, the collection has been made exciting, and student reading minutes have increased dramatically. Her collection is relevant and time sensitive. In addition, her library lessons are engaging and impactful. She also loves to collaborate with teachers on projects and encourages us to branch out from our comfort zone. We are truly lucky to have her at Lawton!” – Emmy Misner, colleague 

Henry “Hank” Morgan (Lichton Springs K-8): “Since the first week of school Library has been my kindergartener’s favorite class. I have heard the same from classmates’ parents. I’m not sure what magic Hank works to make library a bigger draw than P.E. or recess. I do know my kid comes home each week with a mix of books. Some he can read or enjoys having read to him. Some are above his reading level, but he was allowed to try them and learn about selecting books he enjoys. Hank does a great job of keeping the kids engaged with reading. This is, in my opinion, a vital element of creating a community of readers and learners.” – Maura Madden, parent 

Mary Bannister (Louisa Boren STEM K-8): “Ms. Bannister is like the energizer bunny – she is always on the go. She takes time to pull out special interest books and highlights them. The kids love it when Ms. Bannister reads to them during their library time.  She is always thinking of the staff on special occasions and never misses an encouraging card with a treat tucked inside!  She is not afraid of dressing for the occasion (i.e., St. Patrick’s Day, Pajama Day – any day!)  When we were hybrid, and had an outdoor library, she would take great care to set out enough books for each grade and interests.  Ms. Bannister, I believe, goes above and beyond for our school and students.  She’s an inspiration to be a better human.” – Jody Hapgood, colleague 

Kirk Van Irvin (Lowell Elementary): “Kirk is new to Lowell, and we all so appreciate the way he immediately opened the library, has expanded the collection, has invited student leadership and voice in set-up, and created opportunities for students to grow in community as readers.” – Chelsea Dziedzic, colleague 

Stacia Bell (Madison Middle School): “Stacia champions the joy of reading every single day, connecting students to books they would otherwise never find and love.  She has done an AMAZING job of purchasing and promoting books that mirror the beautiful diversity in our world.  She brings popular authors to our campus–live and virtually, giving students a unique opportunity to interact with published writers. And Stacia’s influence at our school extends far beyond the library walls. She is a thoughtful, committed educational technologist, a Career Ladder Teacher, and an organizer of student teachers.” – Susan Ovens, colleague 

Abby Levin (Magnolia Elementary): “Ms. Abby always supports us in reading and beyond. She is an amazing person and is passionate about so many things. If I ever need a book or just some love, Ms. Abby can find me both! I am so happy she works at my school, and I have had the wonderful gift of learning from her!” – Jordan Daligcon, student 

Danae Powers (McGilvra Elementary): “Our librarian was INCREDIBLE during the pandemic. She really was the glue that held our school community together with all her wonderful spirit day video montages and other all-school activities which people submitted photos from home. She created the most amazing video lessons for remote learning. And back in person, she comes up with very thoughtful lesson plans – the kids are learning so much from her every week. This woman is a superstar!” – Sarah Cook, parent 

Dana West (Nathan Hale High School): “Ms. West is just so cool. She’s super friendly with students, she’s with the times, and she can relate to all the students, whether it’s about books, classes, or extracurricular. I definitely want to be like her someday.” – Max Lommers, student 

Tracy Appleyard (Orca K-8): “Tracy is an incredible librarian and human. She cares deeply for her students and is passionate about making books accessible for all students. During remote learning last year, Ms. Appleyard kept up an online reservation system and held library hours outside the main entrance to Orca every other Tuesday afternoon. Seeing the smiles behind masks as students exchanged books and got to see Ms. Appleyard in person was the kind of necessary joy during a difficult time. This year, Ms. Appleyard has worked hard to bring new and interesting books to Orca’s library, with a focus on the representation of all types of students from diverse backgrounds. We love Ms. Appleyard!” – Heather Zucker, parent 

Ami Pendley Noble (Pathfinder K-8): “Ami is the best librarian ever! She is supportive, fun, and leaves lots of room for us to be ourselves. She reads us books that we have never heard of, but that everyone should know. She has the best books, and her book recommendations are amazing too. I have read many books that she suggested, and I haven’t found one that I didn’t like! The library isn’t just for reading either. We have many activities that we can do besides looking at books or reading. We have lessons about all different subjects, and we learn a lot. Not only from books but other types of media too. Every time we leave the library we leave with new knowledge and confidence. She makes our school a better place and is definitely the most loving staff member in our school. Ami is fabulous!” – Jo Russo, student 

Rebecca Wynkoop (Robert Eagle Staff Middle School): “I love how she’s fun and really nice. She takes into consideration what kids want and is willing to buy books to add to the library if it’s requested. She makes fun activities to do outside of reading and makes the library a fun and safe space for everyone.” – Ava Montejano, student 

Chris Robert (Roxhill & Highland Park elementaries): “He is so dynamic and a fan favorite at school. The monthly library songs are sung at our house all year round.” – Erin Conery, parent 

Sarah Johnson (Seattle World School): “Sarah does an amazing job of connecting with the students at Seattle World School. It can be challenging at times since … English is not their primary language. Sarah strives to use different media to answer students’ questions and assist in many ways beyond recommending books such as trouble-shooting computer problems, making sure they have a hotspot, and connecting to needed resources inside and outside the school.  Sarah always does this balancing act of juggling many tasks with a smile on her face. Not only does she help the students with their needs, she provides assistance to her colleagues and staff. She is a leader in our school.” – Ana Short, colleague 

Amy Young (View Ridge Elementary): “Our librarian is simply the best. She’s greeted like a celebrity at dismissal by all the kids because they adore her. She fosters a love of books and kept my child excited about reading throughout remote learning.  As a volunteer, I also get to hear some of the lessons she provides during library time, and I am amazed at the learning that goes on.  She weaves elements of history, science, and language arts into her lessons while teaching the kids how to analyze books for literary elements, contextual clues and more, all while they are having fun.  Ms. Young is a fabulous librarian!” – Jennifer Beaverson, parent 

Maggie Block (Washington Middle School): “They taught me the power of words and the power of creating a safe space. They taught me the power of my words and that what I say can impact others. They inspire me to use my words to help others.” – Nor Luloff, student 

Kristi Leland (Wedgwood Elementary): “Ms. Leland goes above and beyond her role as librarian, not only guiding students towards books they might love but also taking the time to genuinely check in with each student. My son would live in the library if he could!” – Sara Gutmann, parent 

Paula Wittmann (West Woodland Elementary): “Ms. Wittmann is a wonderful advocate for libraries, books and reading. She is very friendly and approachable and always has great book suggestions. She is very thoughtful in planning lessons and highlighting books for different grade levels and tailoring her teaching and discussion to the level of the kids she is working with. She has curated a wonderful collection at West Woodland and made the library there a safe and enjoyable space for all the students and teachers. We are lucky to have her!” – Rachel Rigdon-Bel, parent 

Rachel Kresl (American Indian Resource Library) “I really love our new books … there are some really amazing books coming out,” Meany Middle School students. Read about the American Indian Resource Library.

May 2-6 is Teacher Appreciation Week. Do you know a teacher who deserves a shoutout? Let us know at Microsoft Forms 


February Shout Outs

SPS Shout Outs for School Counselors: We Are Better Together!

We asked, you answered.  

Accolades for school counselors poured in as we recognized National School Counseling Week (February 7-11). This year’s theme, “Better Together,” focused on how counselors work with administrators, teachers, and other school-based mental health professionals for the good of all students. The week also highlights the impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. 

Several nominations cited their school counselor’s ability to engage with students in a way that supports not only college and career readiness, but also social/emotional development. Others shared personal experiences of how their school counselors help students examine their strengths, interests and talents. 

“School counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers and administrators,” said Jill Cook, executive director of the American School Counselor Association, the sponsors of National School Counseling Week. “Counselors are integral to student success.”  

Seattle Public Schools thanks all our counselors for their commitment to our students. Here’s what students, families and colleagues had to say about their school counselors: 

Melissa Matsui “is such an important part of our school community. She helps create and maintain our school culture through her comprehensive guidance program. She is teaching our students skills that will bring them a greater quality of life even into their adulthood. I cannot imagine how our students and staff could have been so well supported emotionally throughout the pandemic without the empathy and guidance of Ms. Matsui.” 

Principal Katie May, Thurgood Marshall 

“I am writing to nominate John Taylor, school counselor at Benjamin Franklin Day Elementary, for his excellent work in our school community. I would also like to nominate Dan Turner, who was an SPS school counselor for decades and substituted for Mr. Taylor during his paternity leave earlier this year.” 

Allison D. Brooks 

“I would like to submit a nomination on behalf of each of the phenomenal school counselors that I am fortunate to work with at Franklin High School: Natalie Weinstein, Lexi Awdziejczyk, Tony Foland, Darrell Lee, and Corey Goldstein. These five dedicated professionals continually strive to meet the needs of all members of the Franklin community, both as individuals and collectively.” 

School Psychologist Ashley Burchett, Franklin High School 

“The team at Ingraham – Angie Allemand, Jensen Bonney, Jennifer Connolly, Kathryn Feder, and Leanne Hust – are a creative, collaborative and caring group of individuals who work tirelessly to meet student needs.  This team fosters a true team approach in their work with students, parents, and staff.  We are so lucky to have such a competent and dedicated group of counselors and counseling support staff here at Ingraham.” 

 Tristie McJilton, Inclusion Education Services, Ingraham High School 

Katie Runions’s [McDonald International Elementary] small group sessions are talked about for days after with enthusiasm and understanding. As a parent, we are thrilled with the connection and comfort our child feels with Katie, and we also benefit with tips, tricks and resources that are sent weekly. She has been tremendously helpful for our family to have open conversations and learning moments as we all get better together.” 

Beth Koemans, parent  

Jenny Brooks from Salmon Bay went above and beyond the past year visiting families in their yards to provide support and guidance.” 

Danae Nakoneczny, parent  

Tammy Foulk [Cascadia Elementary] has been an amazing support for our neurodiverse population to survive and thrive in the social and emotional space. She has a keen eye for justice, a kind heart for the hurt, and a witty approach for solutions to all disputes. We love her. She will always be in our hearts for all the teaching she has allowed for us parents and our kids.”  

Ayca Dabis, parent 

Other counselors receiving recognition: 

  • Said Ahmed [Bailey Gatzert Elementary] – “He is also a leader for other aspiring school counselors, frequently taking on interns to guide them in their own process of growing into this role.” 
  • Gail Olson Laing [Ballard High School] – “I did not anticipate a quick response as I know the counselors support so many kids. It was clear that she had familiarized herself with our child’s transcript and knew the school, teachers and classes well.” 
  • Julie Seltzer [Washington Middle School] – “She has been extremely helpful as my daughter has navigated some tough times. It is just such a relief for her to have such a kind and understanding resource.” 
  • Cheryl Fraley [Whitman Middle School] – “Even with the staff shortages and all that has been happening in the last 2 years, Cheryl has been very competent, patient and thorough!” 

Do you know a student or staff member who deserves a shoutout? Email publicaffairs@seattleschools.org 


January Shout Outs

SPS Shout Outs: Students Put Artistic Skills on Display 

Seattle Public Schools is highlighting students who are doing amazing artwork around the district.

Cleveland senior Nouryani Saleh and Mark Kozumka, 3rd grader at Rising Star Elementary, both spend hours on their craft. From cats to calligraphy, these talented students let their artwork tell their stories.

Mark, 3rd Grade, Rising Star

When Mark’s art teacher, Elaine Dondoyano, says he loves cats, she means he really loves cats.

He loves to read about them, study them, and draw them. Dondoyano has a binder full of his colorful cat drawings. As Mark flips through the pages, he lists them off one by one. 

“This is a cougar. This is a wolf. This is a cat. This is a kitten,” he said. “But I like drawing all animals.” 

Mark’s artwork is featured on the call for submissions page for the Museum of Museums’ website, which is promoting its “Cats vs. Dogs” exhibition opening in February.

His work will also be included in the show located in their Emergence Room, a space for rotating, monthly showcases of visual art that celebrates young artists from around the Pacific Northwest.  

Mark in a school classroom flips through a portfolio of art
Mark K., 3rd Grade Artist

Nouryani Saleh, 12th Grade, Cleveland

As the youngest of three kids, Nouryani tends to copy her older siblings. She started drawing at a young age after seeing her older sister constantly creating art.

After spending years creating digital faces of celebrities, Nouryani is challenging herself by drawing landscapes and architecture. She mainly paints sunsets and skylines based on places she envisions, but she still makes digital art when people commission her work. 

“Over the summer, a lot of people wanted me to do calligraphy signs, so I would use digital art to plan everything out and then do it by hand.” 

What some might call doodling, Nouryani’s customized calendar sketches are where she really shines. She takes ordinary day planners and adds themed drawings to each month, a process that takes dozens of hours to finish. Early on during the pandemic, Nouryani had more time to draw, but as she enters the last semester of her high school career, she’s had to sacrifice her art time for college applications and homework. 

“It’s kind of sad to not have time anymore,” she said. “I try to finish as much work as I can for ASB and all my classes. I try to stay on top of things so my weekends can be free [to draw].” 

Nouryani’s talent has served her school well. After doing an online internship in marketing, she now uses her skills to create advertisements for Cleveland’s Associated Student Body (ASB) and the senior class. She also helps run their Instagram account.  

Nouryani has her eyes set on attending Stanford, University of Southern California, or Seattle University. She plans to major in marketing. 

A student stands in a school hallway holding up two pencil drawings.
Nouryani S., 12th grade artist

Do you know a student who deserves a shoutout? Email publicaffairs@seattleschools.org


December Shout Outs

Thank You Seattle Public Schools Educators and Staff!

Seattle Public Schools continues to highlight members of the SPS community who are making noteworthy contributions to the district. These individuals go above and beyond in service at our schools and are consistently working to ensure students receive high-quality instruction and learning experiences.  

Appreciative colleagues who have noticed these individuals’ commitment to SPS sent in their shout outs to share with the entire school community.  

Send us a Shout-Out! Do you know a student or staff member who deserves a shout-out? Email publicaffairs@seattleschools.org 

Joan Steinberg, Bailey Gatzert Elementary 

Joan Steinberg is the first to arrive and one of the last staff members to leave. As the school assistant and attendance secretary at Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Steinberg is a jack of all trades who usually masters them all. According to her colleague, Administrative Secretary Carrie Bolden, Steinberg is punctual, dedicated, and up for any challenge.

“Ms. Joan is never late and has not had a sub yet,” Bolden said. “During lunch, you can hear her giving directions to the students, reminding them of the rules of the lunchroom and playground activities.” 

“She honestly loves our children … [and] is a joy to have at our school,” Bolden said.  

Bolden said Steinberg brings a wealth of knowledge from her previous job and has implemented some of those processes at Bailey Gatzert Elementary. In addition to her many duties, this year Steinberg added school webmaster to her list and uses the opportunity to grow and collaborate.  

“She is very good at what she does and often asks for my opinion or invites my suggestions on changing formats,” Bolden said.  

Joan Steinberg smiles for a photo while sitting at a desk in a school office.
Joan Steinberg

Leticia Bazemore, Martin Luther King Elementary 

Antoinette Harrison, a project manager with SPS, has seen firsthand how Special Education Assistant Leticia Bazemore incorporates love, kindness, and energy into her interactions with students. While K-2 students line up outside the door before school begins, Bazemore has the students engage in morning movements that gets them ready for a day of learning. Harrison has affectionately dubbed Bazemore as her daughter’s new in-school auntie

“She greets students and parents authentically, and when she is not there, her presence is most definitely missed,” Harrison said. “As a parent and an SPS employee, it brings me joy to see her going above and beyond to create a warm and welcoming environment starting at the door.”  

Laticia Bazemore and a young student pose for a photo outside a school while students and adults line up to go inside.
Leticia Bazemore and Student

Thomas Castle, TOPS K-8 

Thomas Castle, a 7th grade social studies and language arts teacher at TOPS K-8. As a certified sign language interpreter, Ryan Page has spent a lot of time observing teachers and their teaching styles. He appreciates Castle’s positivity and overall commitment to his students. From classroom management to student participation, Page said Castle knows how to keep all eyes on the lesson. 

“Mr. Castle is the most engaging teacher I have ever interpreted for in my five years of interpreting within classrooms,” Page said. “Students are … truly delighted to be part of his classroom.” 

According to Page, Castle exhibits extraordinary classroom management while retaining respect from his students. Castle also goes out of his way to learn the American Sign Language sign for every new topic he introduces. 

“It is truly a pleasure interpreting for him,” Page said.  

Thomas Castle poses for a photo with a book with title Castle
Thomas Castle

November Shout Outs

Thank You School Custodians!

Seattle Public Schools is shining a spotlight on members of the SPS community who have made significant contributions to the district; people who go above and beyond in service at our schools. We received dozens of emails from staff members offering shout-outs, but none received as much praise as the custodial staff. 

Despite having 60 vacant custodial positions that add more strain to their jobs, this team of workers has been performing heroics since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have worked tirelessly since the shutdown March 2020, ensuring schools were cleaned, disinfected, and ready for students to return.  

When schools re-opened in April 2021, custodians were faced with staffing shortages, which led to worries of not being able to clean the schools adequately. Director of Facility Operations Frank Griffin oversees the custodial staff. He said the team stepped up and worked overtime to ensure that schools were ready for students.  

Once school started in Fall 2021, custodial staff faced even more challenges with increased workloads caused by outdoor lunches and the constant disinfecting of common surfaces was a strain on the team. But they were not deterred.  

“This team is all about serving the staff and students of SPS,” said Griffin. “They understand the importance of the role and have achieved nothing short of miracles.” 

What SPS Staff Have to Say

Read some of the praise heaped upon the custodial staff: 

From Director of Facility Operations Frank Griffin

Bounma Thongdymanyvong, Inspector and Liaison Specialist: Headed the COVID-disinfecting response to schools with confirmed COVID cases. He has worked tirelessly to ensure spaces were safe for students 

Young Wong, Custodial Engineer, Ballard High School: Trained 100+ new custodians over the course of a year. Ensured they were successful in their roles of supporting the educational process.  

Mohamed Abdalla, Custodial Engineer: Faithfully served the staff and students at Viewlands Elementary with a can-do attitude and ownership of his role in relocating the school. 

Nicole Selstead, Custodial Engineer and Roger Broz, License Assistant: Worked tirelessly to ensure that West Woodland was ready for staff and students upon reopening, juggling work with contractors, buildings staff, and various other SPS departments.  

From staff around the district

“They are simply fantastic and much appreciated,” Jim Stoltzfus, special education teacher, Blaine Middle School. 

Aaron Larson is incredible! [He is] kind, hardworking, personable, funny, thoughtful, and super communicative. Our school is so lucky to have him. Even as demands for his role have gone up over the pandemic, he’s kept an atmosphere of warmth and optimism, and our building is holistically stronger in light of his contributions,” Carrie Snow, resource teacher, Magnolia Elementary.

Walter Harris worked briefly at Sanislo Elementary but got transferred back to Denny Middle. Walter consistently goes above and beyond to build solid relationships, interact with the kids, and be a generally amazing person. Walter should be recognized for his hard work, amazing attitude, and making life better wherever he works,” Liz Jimmerson-Alaeddinoglu, first grade teacher, Sanislo Elementary School. 

Arnaldo Gando our head custodian at Lowell. He goes above and beyond,” Tracey L. Thompson, social worker, Lowell Elementary School. 

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