Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) annually honors outstanding support services personnel in the areas of instructional assistant, secretary, information technology, maintenance, food service, central office support staff and building services. The awards program was established to recognize the roles support personnel have in supporting the effective and efficient operations of the school system.
Honorees for 2018 include Clifton Shorter, building service manager, Mattawoman Middle School; Anne Zabel, instructional assistant, C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School; Justin Lucchesi, computer analyst II, Henry E. Lackey High School; Robert Bruce, HVAC mechanic II, Annex I; Sharon Bautista, student data technician, La Plata High School; and Shelley Mackey, communications specialist, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building.
Outstanding Building Service Worker
Shorter was a building service worker at Westlake High School starting in 1992 before moving to Mattawoman Middle School, where he’s worked since the school opened in 1995. Shorter, the building service manager, picks up the slack when the school is understaffed, doing the work of many people. Despite this, Shorter is quick to respond to requests for help and has a positive attitude. “He is always at the front door in the morning to greet students, and is always available when someone calls him on the radio for assistance,” said Jennifer Branham, Mattawoman’s vice principal.
Shorter goes beyond his outlined job duties. “Cliff’s work ethic does not stop with managing the building service staff,” said Anthony Sgro, a seventh-grade life science teacher. “He assists the cafeteria staff in monitoring students and creates many positive relationships with students and staff members. He has served as a consummate role model not only in his daily duties, but also as a person.”
Shorter uses sports to connect with students who have little interest in academics. Acting as a mentor to them, Shorter often plays basketball with students as an incentive to help minimize negative behaviors. “I cannot even think how many times Mr. Shorter has helped me,” said eighth-grade student Karry Avalon. “[He’s] helped me grow and mature, helped me in times I thought I was alone, helped me when it came to school and always inspires me.”
He encourages students to do their best and his influence is appreciated. “He relates to the children during this rough period of early adolescence with developmentally appropriate conversations — full of laughter and gentle redirection when they head down a dangerous path,” said Amy R. Warren, Mattawoman’s compliance facilitator and co-chair of the special education department. “He has a reputation among the students as being the caring, welcoming man who greets them at the front doors most mornings, watching over them to protect them from accidents and mishaps, and always ready to caution them when things might be hazardous due to weather.”
“Mr. Shorter has had a great influence on me,” said seventh grader Pierre Rosche. “Last year when I was [close] to failing, Mr. Shorter stepped in and built a relationship with me that I hold dearly. Mr. Shorter has had a great impact on me and is someone I consider family.”
Parents see Shorter’s contributions, as well. “He is someone that every student feels comfortable going to with problems or a jammed locker or just for a little bit of happy conversation on the way to lunch,” said Anisah Ansari, mother of Mattawoman eighth grader, Samirah.
Outstanding Instructional Assistant
Zabel’s career in education began in 1970 across the pond as a teaching assistant at Grange First School in the United Kingdom. She moved to Norbury First School, then to a grade school in El Salvador before landing in Charles County. Starting in 1991, Zabel worked as a substitute teacher in elementary classrooms and a childcare center at what is now the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. From 1996 to 2000, Zabel was an instructional assistant in the childcare program at the center before taking a position at Barnhart. There she has taught science to first and second graders while being an IA to kindergarteners, and first and second graders. Since September 2012, Zabel has been an IA in prekindergarten.
Passionate about equity for all students, Zabel creates materials that will aid in instruction. As a former kindergarten IA, she knows PreK students need to be prepared to progress in their education. “She believes that all children can learn and provides equal access to all by using various methods to differentiate instruction,” said Dawn Turner, the kindergarten team leader who has worked with Zabel for 16 years. Zabel makes puppets and other learning aids to teach literacy, math and science concepts. “This is especially helpful to our English-language learners (ELL) and struggling learners. She’s found or made up songs, movement activities, art projects and finger plays to make learning fun and engaging.” Zabel has a knack for creating materials that will engage young minds and spur them to use their imaginations. “Mrs. Zabel is better than Pinterest,” Melissa Atala, a pre-kindergarten teacher, said.
Zabel is the school’s Spanish translator for parents. “She is the go-to person when Spanish-speaking families call with questions or concerns,” said Barnhart Principal Ben Kohlhorst. “Over the years, she has developed relationships with many families who regularly request her assistance to help them communicate with the school. Her warm and friendly demeanor makes incoming parents feel at ease in a situation that could have been confusing or intimidating for anyone who cannot speak English.”
Students also appreciate Zabel’s ability to communicate with them. “My mom didn’t know English … she was the only one who helped me and the one teacher who took patience to print out Spanish,” wrote fourth grader Lilibeth Pineda-Mendez in a nomination letter. “She’s the best. Mrs. Zabel cares about other people, even if she doesn’t know them.”
Outstanding Information Technology Employee
Lucchesi started his career with CCPS in 2010 as a computer intern who worked at various schools around the county. For nearly a year starting in November 2010, Lucchesi was a computer intern at General Smallwood Middle School, Indian Head Elementary School and the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center before being named a computer analyst I at the schools and center. He transferred to Lackey as a computer analyst II in 2015.
No technology issue is too big for Lucchesi to tackle — he fixes the unfixable, according to nomination materials. “Justin continues to be a favorite among all staff members,” Lackey Principal Kathy Perriello said. “After troubleshooting and fixing all our technology problems, Justin will always end with the question, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ This is the type of service we have all come to love and appreciate.”
Lucchesi responds quickly when a technology issue arises and is constantly learning about new technology to further support Lackey’s students and staff. “Whether a server is down, a schoolwide software update is needed, a staff member has a technology question or a computer needs fixing, Mr. Lucchesi is always there,” said Jason Mackey, a Lackey vice principal. “He addresses all of our needs, no matter how complex or simple they may be, and does so with a smile on his face.”
Lackey rarely faces technology issues due to Lucchesi’s expertise. “Justin is an outstanding technology guru,” Laura Buzzell, Lackey’s mathematics department chair, said. “He is able to fix any problem presented to him and make it look simple. He makes working with technology a breeze.”
Lucchesi is a team player. He co-sponsors Lackey’s gaming club and excels in communicating with others and sharing his knowledge. “I had a computer program not working properly. Most technicians would correct the problem and move on to the next task,” said Luke Ethington, an English IV teacher. “Justin fixed the matter promptly and took a few minutes to describe what the issue involved and how I could prevent the problem from happening again. His collaborative mindset shows a commitment to improving the school culture, overall.”
Outstanding Maintenance Employee
Bruce, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) mechanic II, has worked for CCPS since December 2012. Responsible for maintaining all the kitchen equipment used by food and nutrition service (FNS) staff members, Bruce organizes his daily job responsibilities based on his workload demands. He holds Universal Refrigeration, Maryland liquid propane gas (L/P) fitter and Maryland HVACR Master licenses, has attended continuing education courses in HVAC at the College of Southern Maryland and keeps up with the latest innovations in the field.
Bruce’s job takes him into the kitchens of the 36 schools and two centers around the county to work on 1,157 pieces of equipment. “Whether he is working on a walk-in freezer, serving line equipment, dishwasher, food steamer or washing machine, he diligently works to resolve the issue,” Steve Vance, CCPS’s supervisor of maintenance, said. “His efforts support the safe operation of the food service program in our facilities.”
In addition to making repairs, Bruce schedules his visits and orders materials. He is known to follow up days later with food service staff to ensure the equipment is working properly.
“Robert Bruce is an intelligent and motivated employee,” said Crystal Richardson, supervisor of food and nutrition services. “I often receive calls from FNS managers singing his praises. They are impressed with his knowledge, sense of responsibility and follow through.”
Susan Patterson, the FNS manager at Mattawoman Middle School, has known Bruce for five years and has seen the dedication he pours into his job. “He always goes above and beyond to make sure the appliances are functioning to their best,” she said. “He never lets a work order sit. He is always professional and pleasant.”
Starting her career with CCPS as an 11-month secretary, Bautista worked at Theodore G. Davis Middle School from 2007 to 2009. She has been the student data technician at La Plata since 2009 where she stays up-to-date on the ever changing college admissions requirements and helps shepherd students and their parents through the college admission process.
Bautista’s pristine record keeping, organizational skills and knowledge have aided parents and students frazzled or overwhelmed by the college application process. “Without the right person handling this mission, application deadlines may not be met, scholarships may be lost and admittances may be denied,” wrote John A. Dobson, the father of La Plata senior Marco Frederico. “Mrs. Bautista has unequivocally been the right person to handle this process … I know no better descriptive word to express regarding Mrs. Bautista other than ‘superstar.’”
Bautista is a team player who volunteers at school activities and serves as an informal mentor and mother figure to students in need of support. “Always willing to help, Mrs. Bautista exemplifies what a team player should be,” said La Plata Principal Douglass Dolan. “Administrators, teachers, students and parents count on her, not just because she is contractually obligated to help, but because they know she wants to go the extra mile.”
Senior April McGee didn’t think Bautista liked her when they first met, but as time went on the teenager could see how giving she was. “My relationship progressed with her as I worked with her more and more,” McGee said. “I now see her as a mom — she is loving but stern with the advice she gives.” Students see how Bautista helps others. “She doesn’t mind taking the load off other even if it means adding to her own,” McGee said.
Bautista has helped set students on their paths. “Because of Mrs. Bautista, not only did I gain admittance into my dream school, Cornell University, but I received over $1 million in scholarship offers,” wrote Tyler Dixon, a 2017 graduate of La Plata. “She is one of La Plata High’s greatest treasures.”
Outstanding Central Office Employee
Mackey has been working in the communications office since 2007 when she came aboard as a communications projects developer. Since 2010, she has been a communications specialist for the school system.
A detail-oriented person, Mackey is quick to respond to requests for information and is relentless in the pursuit of accuracy.
“Shelley takes the time to learn all aspects of the job, and can fill any position — writing, design, website, social media and project management — at any time,” said Katie O’Malley-Simpson, director of communications and media relations.
“Every workplace has a core group of individuals who are key to the success of the organization,” said Joan Withers, acting director of secondary education. “In the case of Charles County Public Schools, Shelley Mackey is one of the individuals who is absolutely essential to the daily operations of the school system.”
Among her duties is working with Starkey staff to develop the Charles County Public Schools Parent Handbook/Calendar. Mackey designs the publication that helps shape the schedules of CCPS parents and students. She informs the community of school closures due to weather and other emergencies, has served as the Board’s liaison to the School Naming Committee for Billingsley Elementary School, took the lead on the implementation of the new student information system, School Messenger, and tells the school system’s story.
“Whether Shelley Mackey is out of bed early on a snow day or capturing precious moments in our organization, she demonstrates her dedication to Charles County Public Schools and our students,” said Linda Gill, executive director of schools.
Beyond crafting press releases highlighting the accomplishments of staff and students, Mackey helps plan the annual Parade of Success which takes graduating seniors into elementary schools to see how far they have come in their education while inspiring younger students. “She was able to authentically catch the excitement and pride of the event, and it also allowed the students to see how much she really cared about them,” said Michael Meiser, principal of Westlake High School. “Shelley is more than just a person working in communications; she building relationships with the stakeholders because she truly cares about them and Charles County Public Schools.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.