Vallecito Union School District (VUSD) is honored to announce the four district recipients of the 2023 Making a Difference Award, which is given annually by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) to classified employees who go above and beyond the duties of their job.
Congratulations to Colette Scales of Avery Middle School; Chelsey Dorsey of Hazel Fischer Elementary; Melissa Francis of Albert Michelson Elementary; and Jenine Frost, who works at the district office. These amazing women are VUSD’s 2023 Making a Difference Award winners!
Classified employees are school and district employees whose jobs do not require a teaching certificate as a condition of employment—such as bus drivers, librarians, and paraprofessionals—but who are nonetheless essential to supporting student success.
This year’s winners continually demonstrate their commitment to our students and community while embodying our district’s values of innovation, equity, high standards, responsibility, and collaboration.
Colette Scales Provides Critical Support at Avery Middle School
Despite joining Avery Middle School (AMS) just a couple of years ago, Colette Scales, a visual impairment paraprofessional, has already made a major impact on students and colleagues. In addition to receiving the Making a Difference Award, Scales’ peers voted her VUSD’s 2023 Classified Employee of the Year.
AMS Principal Scott Nicotero said he nominated Scales for her calm, gentle, and effective approach to supporting students.
“Colette brings knowledge, wisdom, and insight to her work,” Nicotero said. “She’s incredible at meeting students’ needs, such as preparing Braille materials or providing classroom support. In fact, one of our students who is visually impaired now navigates our campus freely and with confidence—all thanks to Colette’s support.”
Colette recently expanded her work beyond visual impairment to serve a wider range of special needs and resource students at AMS.
“Her willingness to help even more kids has had a ripple effect across our entire campus,” Nicotero said.
Chelsey Dorsey Makes Technology Fun at Hazel Fischer
Chelsey Dorsey started at Hazel Fischer Elementary (HFE) in 2017 as a paraeducator. In 2021, she became a computer technician and instructor, helping students and staff navigate technology issues.
HFE Principal Dr. Ray Fausel said Dorsey has a knack for holding students accountable to high standards while being consistent, kind, and fair.
“I can’t say enough about Chelsey and what she means to all of us,” Fausel said. “Her effort, skill, and attitude make staff and students better. She finds a way to make technology fun, relatable, and meaningful. We’re incredibly fortunate to have her on our team.”
Beyond tackling tech problems, Chelsey is known for jumping in and helping out wherever needed, whether that’s braving rain and snow to make sure students are dismissed safely, or running the sound system at school events so everyone has a good time.
“She’s a consummate professional,” Fausel said. “She arrives early, stays late, and her positive attitude is infectious.”
Melissa Francis Makes Albert Michelson’s Library Special
With 25 years of service to VUSD, Melissa Francis is much more than a librarian; she has become synonymous with Albert Michelson Elementary’s (AME’s) library.
Melissa's colleagues all talk about the tremendous difference she’s made in the lives of children and staff over the years. She mentors at-risk students, facilitates the book fair, supports AME’s read-a-thon, coordinates weekly story time, makes sure families are able to use the library, and more—all on top of her regular duties.
Josh O’Geen, AME’s principal, said, “Mrs. Francis transformed our library from a place where kids grab any old book, to a home where children can learn about literature in an environment that’s fun, compassionate, and cozy.”
Michelle Wright, a long-time teacher at AME, mentioned even more ways Melissa makes a difference: teaching reading groups to support combo classes, volunteering for parent night events, attending teacher meetings, and supervising the after-school ELOP Adventure Program.
“I have never encountered a more creative, dedicated, tireless, and enthusiastic librarian,” Wright said. “In her many years at Michelson, Melissa has contributed well beyond her four walls. She’s a friend to all, and a respected and respectful member of our staff. We love her so much!”
Jenine Frost Helps Colleagues with Kindness and Compassion
Jenine Frost, a payroll specialist at VUSD’s district office, may not work directly with students, but she does much more than process payroll every week—which is an incredible feat in and of itself.
In many instances, employees come to Jenine to discuss health benefits, Workman’s Compensation, their retirement plan, or other sensitive matters—which can sometimes be a little stressful. Superintendent Tom Hoskins, who nominated Jenine, said that she thrives in these situations.
“Jenine always listens with kindness and compassion while providing a safe space for employees to be heard, valued, and helped,” Hoskins said.
Regardless of what she’s doing or who she’s helping, Jenine brings a spirit and enthusiasm to her work that makes everyone around her better. She is a natural educator, which helps her excel at managing the sometimes complicated relationships between school-site staff and the district office. She’s also a life-long learner who is constantly acquiring new skills while passing her wisdom down to others.
“Jenine personifies our district’s values around quality teaching and learning,” Hoskins said. “She’s willing to meet with any employee one-on-one and share her knowledge about important things like benefits and leaves. Neighboring districts that need to train new staff have even reached out to Jenine, who always steps up and offers her expertise.”
Congratulations to this year’s Making a Difference Award winners! Here at VUSD, classified staff are valued members of our learning community who help make education possible through their hard work, commitment, and kindness. Thank you to our four winners, and to all of our staff, for making our district such a special place to learn, teach, and work.