From left: Honorees Tizoc Castillo, Arthur Camarena, Sheree Newman, Kayoko Nakauchi, Patricia Ellis, Francine Harms and Chou Chiang.
COSTA MESA — Kay Nakauchi, a 61-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, was recently recognized for her decades of service.
She was among seven award winners congratulated by Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares during an April 11 ceremony at the Orange County Department of Education headquarters in Costa Mesa.
“Kay is receiving the County Superintendent Special Recognition Award in honor of her longevity, kindness, and perseverance in service to students, families, and colleagues,” said OCDE Student Programs Administrator Nicole Savio. “She is a certificated personnel secretary, and she has been with the district for 61 years.
“She began her career in 1957, just two years after graduating from Huntington Beach High School. Kay’s favorite part of her job is interacting with people. She supports certificated staff in navigating the system all the way from recruitment to retirement. Kay is involved with teacher credentialing contracts and salary placement.
“She’s very patient and always willing to help with a smile on her face. Having the longest tenure in the district, she certainly has seen a lot of growth and change over the years. In fact, Kay shared that she has outlasted at last 10 superintendents, so you know. She has served thousands of teachers and administrators throughout their careers, and one of the things she enjoys most is honoring retirees at the district’s annual banquet.
“After all these years, Kay has maintained a high level of enthusiasm and passion for her work. She learned a lot about perseverance from her family. During World War II, they were sent from their home in Westminster to the Manzanar Japanese internment camp. After two years, they were allowed to leave the camp because her father agreed to take a job away from the West Coast in New Jersey. Kay’s family worked hard and eventually made it back to California.
“Her parents taught her that no matter what happens in life, you have to be dignified and work your way through hard times. I’m going to cry. Kay has made her family proud by truly exemplifying hard work and resilience in her 61 years with the district.”
Nakauchi was accompanied by Huntington Beach Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Clint Harwick as she received the award.
“Kay is often called the heart and soul of Huntington Beach Union High School District due to her commitment to serve our community,” Harwick wrote in his letter of recommendation. “She works hard and is dedicated to make sure Huntington Beach Union High School District is the best in the nation.”
A total of 64 nominations for Classified School Employees of the Year were reviewed. The finalists were selected based on work performance, leadership and commitment, school and community involvement, and going above and beyond.
In addition to Nakauchi, the honorees were: Tizoc Castillo, an instructional assistant at Valencia Park Elementary School (Fullerton School District); Arthur Camarena, head custodian at Harbor View Elementary School in Huntington Beach (Ocean View School District); Francine Harms, bus driver for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District; Sheree Newman, a prevention specialist with the Westminster School District; Patricia Ellis, secretary at Estock Elementary School (Tustin Unified School District); and Chou Chang, a cook at Los Alamitos Elementary School (Los Alamitos Unified School District).
“These individuals truly exemplify the spirit and intent of this award through their commitment, creativity and character,” said Mijares. “Suffice to say, our county is incredibly fortunate to have staff members performing at this level and contributing extraordinarily to the success of our students and schools.”