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Making a Difference in Our District

March 2023

At the March 9 Board Meeting, we recognized this quarter’s Difference Makers honorees. The Difference Makers program recognizes staff and community members who support our district's core values:

  • Students First
  • Integrity and Ethical Stewardship
  • Connected Families and Collaborative Community
  • Equity and Social Justice
  • Empathy and Respect
  • World-leading and Future Ready

Difference Makers are nominated by site leadership teams and labor association leadership teams on a quarterly basis to a selection committee comprised of representatives from classified, certificated, and management employee groups. Difference Makers are recognized before the Board of Trustees, as they are tonight, where they receive a certificate of recognition and a Difference Maker pin.

In the category of “Certificated Staff Member,” this quarter’s difference maker is Karyn Howl from Montague Elementary for embodying our core value of “Students First.” On behalf of the School Leadership Team, principal Leanna Goldenberg said, “Karyn prepares students to adapt and thrive by creating positive space for inclusion. 1. She has always embraced mainstreaming SAI students in her classroom in the most effective ways possible to meet the needs of all students and normalizing learning differences in the classroom. 2. This year she has created a sensory room so all students have a safe place to take a break when feeling frustrated, angry, or needing a break from their classroom environment. 3. Karyn is excited to work with our newly formed PTA in providing events that bring everyone together and has spearheaded a school-wide spirit wear effort with a student drawn logo to help us look and feel unified. Karyn Howl embodies the spirit of inclusivity and creating a caring community. Her generous nature and loving attitude are inspirational and aspiration; she is truly a difference maker and model for putting students first in SCUSD!”

The selection committee commends Karyn for her creation of a sensory room, which exemplifies the difference being made in mental wellness for all children.

In the category of “Classified Staff Member,” this quarter’s difference maker is Veena Prakash from Peterson Middle School for embodying our core value of “Students First.” On behalf of the School Leadership Team, Principal Chandra Henry says, “Peterson Middle School would like to recognize Veena Prakash for her time and dedication to the students at Peterson Middle School. Veena has been a Noon Duty supervisor for the last four and a half years. She is dedicated and dependable. In this role, she assists our administrators and counselors with the supervision of our students during both lunches so that our teachers and other staff can have a duty-free lunch. Veena is diligent in understanding the rules and supporting students in following them during their free time. She is a huge contributor to keeping our campus safe in this role. In addition, Veena is more than happy to go above and beyond, supporting whatever we may need her to do. From assisting with materials and food pickup during COVID, to locker room or library supervision, Veena is always willing to support us by accepting additional tasks as long as they are to help the students.”

The selection committee highlights the critical role noon duty and yard duty supervisors play in ensuring the safety and well-being of the children and youth in our care. Veena has proven herself to be a reliable and committed member of the school community who consistently goes above and beyond in her efforts to support both students and staff. 

In the category of “Community Member,” this quarter’s difference maker is Aja Sulack from Ponderosa Elementary for embodying our core value of  “Connected Families and Collaborative Community.” On behalf of the School Leadership Team, Principal Lauryce Haney says, “Aja has been instrumental in re-establishing a strong school community post COVID distance learning.  She is co-chair of PEPCO, Ponderosa's fund-raising parent group, and also plays a big role in PTSA. She is in close communication and meets frequently with the principal and both parent groups to plan and execute fundraisers and fun community events, such as the walk-a-thon, Scholastic Book Fair, Aladdin Jr. play, selling school spirit wear, and Family Science Night. Aja is always positive, upbeat, and a joy to be around.  She even brings her husband along to volunteer in their daughter's class and help run these events.  Thank you, Aja, for bringing joy to the Ponderosa community!” 

It was clear to the committee that Aja is a role model in what it means to ensure families and community work together to improve teaching and learning environments. Her commitment being a conduit to strong connections for Ponderosa is commendable.

In the category of “Group/Team or Organization,” this quarter’s difference makers are Christina Souza and Jose Gonzalez at Pomeroy Elementary School for embodying our core value of “Students First.” On behalf of the School Leadership Team, Principal Kevin Keegan says, “Christina and Jose make up a dynamic, caring, student and family-first kitchen crew. Cristina is one of the first people to come to Pomeroy in the morning and she ALWAYS welcomes students and their families with a smile.  She carefully prepares and serves breakfast and makes sure everyone eats, even those who are a little late. Jose joins Pomeroy mid-morning and they work together preparing a healthy lunch for the Pomeroy community. They know our students well and while Jose serves food, and encourages them with praise and smiles and support in Spanish, Cristina follows up with a smile while she makes sure they have a healthy meal and get their student number right.  Everyone leaves the kitchen with a healthy meal and a smile. Together, Cristina and Jose make the Pomeroy cafeteria a warm, welcoming and student-first place.”

The selection committee was thrilled to honor this dynamic and positive team, especially during National School Breakfast Week! It’s clear that Joe and Christina put the health and well-being of students at the center of their work and serve as models for their colleagues.

In the category of “High School Student,” this quarter’s difference maker is Kavan Doctor from Wilcox High School for embodying our core value of “Connected Families and Collaborative Community.” Peterson Middle School nominated Kavan. On behalf of the School Leadership Team, Principal Chandra Henry says, “Peterson Middle School would like to recognize Wilcox high school student Kavan Doctor for volunteering his time with the Peterson Middle School Math Club for the last four years. Kavan is a former Pirate. He supports students and the advisor in administering and preparing for various math competitions; Kavan has helped make the Math Club more fun for participants. In addition to being an exceptional volunteer, Kavan is also a stellar student who has taken numerous AP courses during his time at Wilcox and will be attending MIT in the fall. Peterson would like to thank Kavan for donating his time in order to better the Math Club experience for our students at Peterson Middle School, and would like to wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. We will miss Kavan as a part of our Peterson community!”

The selection committee was impressed at Kavan’s four-year commitment and noted that he may have a future as a future teacher or innovator. He is a model for his peers in connecting the community to our schools and giving back in service to our community.