Four employees were selected for the April 2016 recognition. They were honored at the April 26 school board meeting. Pictured from left to right are:

  • Jean Miller, media clerk, Columbia River High School
  • Mari Ovens, director, nutrition services
  • Scott Bobst, custodian, Skyview High School

Not pictured: Susan McKenzie, teacher, Columbia River High School

The Excellence Award is given to two to four employees and/or small teams from October to May each school year. Nominations are open to staff, students, parents and community members. Nominees are selected for recognition by a committee of their peers.

As soon as Scott’s duties are completed, he looks for new ones. He’s in constant motion, searching for a door handle to scrub, paint to touch up or something to fix, even during non-school days and breaks. He’s been known to help his colleagues, too, including transporting a fellow staff member to the hospital and remaining there until the family arrived. His co-workers respect his opinion and rely on his expertise to make their jobs easier and more efficient. To paraphrase cartoonist and writer Ted Key, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.” Scott’s work is autographed with excellence.
When a student struggles, Susan gives up her lunch and prep periods to work with him or her. When her class needs additional instructional materials, Susan writes her own textbook. When a student has trouble at home, Susan reaches out and offers support. When new teachers enter the school, Susan is a natural mentor. But unless you work closely with Susan, you might never know this. She is as humble and generous as she is passionate about math and teaching. That’s why, when her colleagues nominated her for this award, she was a natural choice—a teacher of the highest order.
Knowledgeable and adaptable, Jean is integral to the school’s library operations. She’s also quick to recognize different learning needs and demonstrate a level of compassion and care that is vital to students. She provides breakfast and snacks to students working early or late on assignments just as often as she offers academic assistance. She’s the shoulder to cry on in times of tragedy and a cheerleader in times of triumph. Said one nominator, “She works to make all students feel supported and cared for, and like they have a place in our school community.” River pride flows freely in Jean.
It’s no small task, overseeing the administration of the district’s nutrition program, but Mari is equal to it. This registered dietician interprets complex state and federal regulations and procedures. She oversees more than 160 employees, with whom she maintains positive relationships, often long after they retire. In addition, she is deeply involved in the budgeting, inventory management, purchasing and production aspects of food services. And if that weren’t enough, Mari personally purchases food for students with dietary restrictions, works with the district’s recycling program and is implementing food composting. She is essential to the well-being of our students.

Congratulations to these staff members! They join the many VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.