Four employees were selected for the October 2013 recognition. They were honored at the Oct. 22 school board meeting. Pictured left to right are:
• Janell Olander, paraeducator, Truman Elementary School
• Darci Fronk, principal, Salmon Creek Elementary School
• Lisa Kennison, school nurse, Columbia River High School
• Roxann Ortega-Murillo, building operator, McLoughlin Middle School

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

If there’s one thing Janell Olander won’t accept from students, it’s defeat. This paraeducator, who lives and breathes all things Truman, uses a positive approach to make kids shine. She mentors at-risk students, works with reading groups, helps supervise lunch and recess and assists English language learners. It’s common for Janell to become pen pals with students and even purchase clothes for them with her own money. Said one nominator, “She forms strong relationships with students who want to please her, because they know she really cares about them. It’s as though she is the Child Whisperer.”
Many principals would hate to give up their summer vacations, but Salmon Creek’s Darci Fronk spent hers working tirelessly on the Teacher-Principal Evaluation Project. On her own time, she corresponded with state officials, edited lengthy documents, collaborated with central office administrators and answered principals’ questions. Her diligence, organization and attention to detail have eased TPEP implementation in the district, and her mastery of the instructional framework is a great support for other principals with developing knowledge of the project. As a result of her leadership, she’s earned the respect of both her colleagues and supervisors.
You’ll know Lisa Kennison by her mastery of her craft. The self-described “Overprotective School Nurse” knows that persistence and timing are imperative to keeping students healthy both at school and outside it, too. In the words of one nominator, “Lisa is one of those people whose proactive and attentive work not only helps students get through day by day, but also helps them make it to graduation, prom, birthdays and all of life’s events. Lisa’s bravery and dedication saved a life, and we are all so fortunate to have her as the school nurse at Columbia River.”
Among non-teaching staff, you may find those who believe instruction should be left to the educators. Roxann Ortega-Murillo isn’t one of them. She takes the unique view that every adult at McLoughlin is a teacher of students, and she leads by example. As an informal educator, she’s promoted school-wide safety conversations, mentored students and volunteered with the parent-teacher-student association and at community events. As a building operator, she ensures that the environment is one that instills a strong sense of Pioneer pride. At McLoughlin, Roxann creates not only a safe, inviting environment, she creates learning opportunities, too.

Congratulations to these staff members! They join the more than 250 VPS employees who have received Excellence Awards since 2007.