SHORT NEWS: Four Very Important People

There are Four Very Important People to celebrate and congratulate — two classified, one certificated, and one hybrid! All local kids!

Travis Griffin started her career behind the wheel of a bus where she was known by her peers for safety and care, and known by her kids for professionalism and “cool.” Travis has taken progressively more difficult jobs in our MUSD Transportation Department. The past few years, as our beloved Katie White nobly battled cancer, Travis was unflinching in her problem-solving and leadership. Travis  has served the students, staff, and community incredibly well as the “interim” director but on Tuesday night, the MUSD Governing Board removed the “interim” tag! Many teachers, support staff, drivers, and administrators have stopped me to endorse Travis during this past year and your confidence in her has been validated! They always say that she’s tough, fair, thoughtful, dedicated, and humble. Indeed! Please welcome, Travis Griffin as our new MUSD Transportation Director. I’m proud to have her as a member of our Cabinet! Lawrence Fernandez started his career as a much needed Gang Intervention Specialist in the long shadow of street and school violence, perfecting his craft along the way. When the intervention side began to yield results and took kids from the gang and into school and work, Lawrence realized a true victory was possible in this battle. His prevention efforts to keep kids from ever joining, have become legendary across the state where he’s trained law enforcement from MPD all the way to the FBI. But many don’t realize he has studied, taught, trained, and planned extensively in the post-Sandyhook era to make MUSD schools safer and more secure. Lawrence has supported our safety officers training, needs, and professionalism for years and assumed more responsibility each month. As a CTE/ROP teacher, Lawrence has inspired students for years and distinguished himself as one of the Valley’s best instructors. Again, like Travis, staff has endorsed Lawrence’s work and promotion for many years and Tuesday, the MUSD Governing Board validated his efforts by naming him MUSD Safety Manager. I’m proud to have him as a member of our Cabinet! Simone Montez was honored at a recent event as the Madera County School Employee of the Year! Those of you who have worked with Simone know of her dedication, work ethic, intelligence, integrity, responsibility, and leadership. She’s been an asset to MUSD for years as a paraprofessional, administrative assistant, and ASP (After School Program) Coordinator. There is NOTHING she can’t do. Not only has she served MLK with great dignity, but she dignifies the community each day. The students are her kids for life and she takes it upon herself to raise them just that way. One student said that she saw Ms. Montez like an auntie whom she could look up to for advice and love. There was almost not a dry eye in the place because Simone, too, was overtaken by the spirit of the moment. She takes each student personally in every interaction and sees her role as the extension of the principal’s and school’s values. She expresses love and truth in equal measure, which kids deeply need and respect. The complexity of Simone’s job in the office and in ASP is well known and truly staggering! All inn attendance stopped during the event to honor her work with a standing ovation after she spoke and it was mutually from the heart! Martin Luther King Middle School is so lucky to have Simone there to meet the needs of staff, students, and parents each day! Congratulations on a befitting honor and I’m so proud you’re such a quality staff leader in Madera Unified School District! Jennifer Vukovich was honored at a recent event as Madera County’s Teacher of the Year! Isha Bains praised her saying, “If I can’t connect with my teacher, I can’t learn.” Abraham Maslow predicted this very truth in his Hierarchy of Needs and Jennifer proves the power of connections. Jennifer’s skill in facilitating student learning should be legendary, if it isn’t already in her young career. So often, I made the mistake of instructing my class too much and not facilitating their learning through exploration of a topic. For such a young teacher to have progressed to such a master’s level of facilitation is indeed rare. She shows the value of organization and trust. The students in Jennifer’s class literally Love Learning because they know she Loves Students. The expression of true affection and deep belief in them is reinforced with High Expectations and support. Jennifer inspires them to speak and think like college-age juniors and seniors. As a coach, whose intensity is well known, Jennifer lives out her belief in continuous improvement. This belief doesn’t just flourish on the court. As the daughter of a coach and of a teacher, “good enough” is absent from her mentality. Jennifer’s excellence was honored at the event, among the most amazing teachers in nine districts. Madera High is so fortunate to have yet another proud Coyote alumnus serving its students for another generation. Congratulations on this important honor and we cannot wait to see the next level of Jennifer’s teacher leadership and continuous improvement!
Madera grows pretty impressive people. It just so happens that all four are MHS graduates. They prove a point we all need to internalize. MUSD kids desperately NEED HIGH EXPECTATIONS, support, and inspiration. When all three are present in the proper amounts, we see success and leadership emerge at levels that would make any community proud. These four service-oriented leaders in their fields benefited from teachers and coaches who pushed them, support staff who loved and protected them, and a community that truly needs them now. Thanks to Travis, Lawrence, Simone, and Jennifer for their investment in Madera’s students and future. We’re in this together, with the four of you, and we’re so very proud!

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