Above: Chief facilities executive Mark Hovatter reads to students as part of his day shadowing Melvin Avenue Elementary library aide Anita Persoff. (Photo by Davis Barber Photography.)
As part of Classified School Employee Week, Superintendent Michelle King and L.A. Unified department heads spent the day shadowing employees who perform jobs that are essential to the daily operation of the school district.
Sponsored by the California School Employees Association (CSEA), the event tapped leaders including the chief academic officer, chief human resources officer and chief facilities executive, who worked alongside food services workers, office technicians, financial managers, library aides and other Classified employees.
“Our thanks to our CSEA partners for making this wonderful opportunity possible,” King said. “This has helped open our eyes to the essential duties performed every day by our dedicated classified employees, ensuring our students stay safe, our campuses clean and operating efficiently.”
King shadowed Rohan Shand, a broadcast operator for KLCS-Channel 58, the District-owned television station.
“It was a privilege to get to know Rohan this morning,” King said. “I was just amazed at how much goes into his job and the level of detail and complexity for which he is responsible. It really opened my eyes to new perspectives on what it takes to keep our District moving.”
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Frances Gipson shadowed Jose Padilla, from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, who is responsible for collecting hazardous chemical and ensuring they are properly transferred, treated and stored. Of all the positive aspects of the experiences she recalled, one thought firmly stood out.
“I realized watching the work that he does, that our students are safe,” she said.
King’s chief of staff, Alma Pena, spent time shadowing Catherine Jalos, an assignment technician for the Personnel Commission.
“It was terrific to see first hand the level of dedication that these employees have,” Pena said. “The assignment technicians have really large caseloads, and yet they give very personal attention to each employee they serve. This is important, because when it comes to your employment, you don’t want to talk to a machine. You want a person. You want a caring person like Catherine.”
“It was great to have the chance to share some of what goes into our job,” Jalos said. “We manage every detail related to changes to classified employees, and emotions can often run high. It can be stressful, but it feels good to be able to help and advise people when they need it most.”
The responsibilities of Dr. Cynthia Lim, the executive director for the Office of Data and Accountability, include managing student records. Shadowing Bernice Brown, a senior office technician in the attendance office at Fairfax High School, Lim was able to get a feel for what the work is like on the ground level.
“When we say 100 percent graduation, Bernice is the type of employee who is going to help us get there.,” Lim said. “I saw students coming in and out of the attendance office constantly all day, and she treated every one of them as though they were the most important person in the world. That is what we mean by personalization.”
“I am so glad we had the chance to show Dr. Lim the details that go into what we do every day to manage records,” Brown said. “I was able to show her what goes into printing a transcription report using MiSiS…all the steps it takes to do that.”
“We need to improve that process,” Lim said.
The resounding response from participating employees is that they were happy to have their work acknowledged.
Franny Parrish, library aid for Dixie Canyon Elementary School, said it was important to shine a light on jobs like hers that often get overlooked in conversations about how students are served.
“I felt really appreciated today,” she said. “It was wonderful that District leaders had the chance to see just how much library aides do every day and how much we make a difference in the lives of students.”
Letetsia Fox, a senior financial manager at Dorsey High School, and president of the Los Angeles CSEA chapter, thanked everyone for making the event possible and said she hopes the District will continue these types of activities in the years to come. Fox was shadowed by General Counsel David Holmquist.
“This was just such an important exercise,” Fox said. “Mr. Holmquist and I learned we have a lot in common. And, we realized that though we play so many different roles and wear so many different hats, we are really all just people, doing the very best we can to serve kids well.”