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Three honored as G.E.M.S. Employees of the Year
2018-19 GEMS honoreesYou may see their name on the campus marquee or their framed photo displayed on the wall. You may see a parking space dedicated to this individual or hear the applause when they are announced during a campus or department meeting.

But what stands out most of all is why they are being recognized.

They are the ones who inject enthusiasm into every task they touch. Their warm smiles brighten everyone’s day. They have big hearts, listening ears, and respectful and kind speech. And, their flexibility and willingness to lend a hand are the definition of teamwork. 

At SAISD, we call these employees G.E.M.S., or Great Employees Modeling our Standards. At the Oct. 14 Board meeting, three outstanding SAISD support staff members were recognized as the District’s G.E.M.S. Employees of the Year for 2018-2019. 

Josie SerrosTwo exceptional employees tied for Paraprofessional of the Year. The first one introduced to the Board was Josefina Serros, secretary at Highland Hills Elementary School. According to her nomination form, “This is not just a job for her; this is her passion ensuring Highland Hills’ climate is a positive and welcoming place. The theme for the school is ‘Super Heroes’ and Ms. Serros decorates the front office by making cloth seats with Super Hero characters and posters with super heroes stating positive statements such as ‘Come to School Every Day’ and ‘Read 30 Minutes’ daily.”

“Ms. Serros always puts children first,” said Deborah Esparza, principal at Highlands Hill. “Even when she has deadlines to meet, she always makes time to assist and answer questions from teachers, students, parents and community members. She has made significant contributions to the campus by helping create a positive climate.”

Lucia GutierrezAlso commended for Paraprofessional of the Year was Lucia Gutierrez, senior executive secretary in the Human Resources Department. In her nomination form, it was stated that Gutierrez always finds a way to support her teammates and to lessen their loads or alleviate their stress by offering a helping hand. This has included offering to stand in for a colleague when and if the colleague was not able to work late to finish tasks.

“Ms. Gutierrez exemplifies all the District’s core values in an extraordinary manner,” said Toni Thompson, associate superintendent. “No task is too small or ‘not in her job description’ when it comes to providing support for her colleagues. She is always willing and able to do whatever is needed to do to assist them and to help the team accomplish the mission.”

Norma LopezNorma Lopez, a porter at Lamar Elementary School, was honored as the Classified Employee of the Year. Her nomination form shared that many families have approached the school to describe how Lopez has helped their child and made their experience at school better. For instance, every morning by 7:15 a.m., she is welcoming students in the cafeteria and encouraging students to eat a good breakfast or engaging students in conversation about their morning or weekend. She also encourages her students to help lay out silverware and napkins to prepare for other students to enter the cafeteria.

“Ms. Lopez has demonstrated a consistent willingness to take initiative on campus to serve students, staff, and our families,” said Roxanna Bazaldua, associate principal at Lamar Elementary School. “Ms. Lopez is willing to do anything to support our campus mission and she does so without needing attention or special recognition. She truly is a servant leader who humbly takes care of our campus.”

Prior to the Board meeting, this year’s winners were surprised on their home campuses with a visit from campus and District leadership, where they were presented with a personalized, etched glass award. 

Each month, campuses and departments can nominate paraprofessional and classified employees for modeling our core values and for making significant improvements in job efficiency, quality of service, safety or conserving resources to achieve these standards. One from each campus or department can then be nominated for districtwide recognition as G.E.M.S. Employees of the Year.

2020 nomination period in process 

Don’t hesitate – herald the virtues of your full-time support staff members! Nominations are now open for the 2019-2020 G.E.M.S. Employees of the Month awards. Campus principals and department heads may choose a genuine jewel of an employee for recognition each month, culminating with an employee to be nominated at the end of 2019-2020 for the Districtwide G.E.M.S. Employee of the Year recognition. 

Details about the nomination process can be found here. For more information, call 210-554-8412 or email

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