The Pasadena Unified School District honored its teacher, principal, classified employee and community partner of the year as well as recipients of the Superintendent’s Award on Aug. 10 at the district’s annual staff event that kicks off the school year.
Superintendent Brian McDonald presented the outstanding educators and organizations in a virtual ceremony broadcast.
“The last year was a time of extraordinary challenges and it is more important than ever that we honor the outstanding employees and community partners who brought innovative thinking and care to their work for our students and families,” McDonald said. “This is a well-deserved recognition of the educators and community partners who stepped up to keep our students learning and growing.”
TEACHER OF THE YEAR: JULIE SILK
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested PUSD teachers’ resilience, innovative spirit and commitment to students. Teaching in an online environment was challenging, but the district said its educators came through with passion and imagination to actively engage students.
Each year, PUSD recognizes educators who have shown exemplary dedication, excellent classroom practices, and professional commitment. Julie Silk is one of the founding teachers of PUSD’s Dual Language Immersion Program. She has taught 1st-grade Spanish dual Immersion for 12 years, first at San Rafael Elementary and currently at Jackson STEM Dual Language Elementary. She joined PUSD in 2004.
An inspiring teacher who engages students and their families, Silk adapted quickly during the pandemic and the year of distance learning, the PUSD said. Without having met her students in person, she cultivated strong bonds through whole class lessons and intentional support through small groups, focused lessons and individual attention.
Silk is passionate, enthusiastic and inspiring, the district said.
CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR: MARCIE BOROUGH
Classified school employees support the education of PUSD students from early education through 12th grade. From food service and clerical workers to facilities employees, instructional aides and security, they play key roles in creating a school environment that promotes student achievement, safety and health.
During a year of the pandemic and distance learning, Pasadena Unified classified employees provided essential services, serving more than 3 million meals to students and families, supplying technology support for students and their teachers, as well as offering COVID-19 vaccines and tests to employees and students.
Marcie Borough has worked for the PUSD since 1993 and has served as the school community assistant at Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy since 2012. She serves as a liaison between families, schools and the communities and facilitates communication among parents, teachers, staff members and the community, including providing interpretation and translation during meetings, conferences and school activities.
She helps families access information and services to support their children’s learning.
Borough has done an outstanding job providing a link between families and schools, the district said.
PRINCIPAL OF THE YEAR: LAWTON GRAY III
Gray joined the PUSD in 2017 as principal of John Muir Early College Magnet. A Muir alumnus and PUSD parent, he is described by the district as a strong leader who lives and breathes Mustang blue and gold. Gray is deeply committed to his students, establishing a loving environment where every student is seen and heard, the PUSD said.
On campus, he can’t go more than a few steps without stopping to greet someone and ask how they’re doing.
As principal at PUSD’s Early College high school, Gray also ensures that students learn to set and strive for high expectations, district officials said. They added that under his leadership, Muir has grown into a thriving magnet school where all students begin their college journey in 9th grade and where Gray ensures that all students have the access and support to achieve their college dreams.
During the pandemic, he visited students at their homes or jobs to ensure that they stayed connected to the school community.
COMMUNITY PARTNER OF THE YEAR: PASADENA EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
For nearly 50 years, the Pasadena Educational Foundation has helped raise millions of dollars to support and strengthen Pasadena Unified schools. The foundation has been instrumental in incubating some of the PUSD’s signature innovative programs, such as dual language, the Math Academy, arts education and much more.
When the pandemic began and school buildings closed, the PEF stepped up immediately to support students, staff members and families. The foundation became an essential partner in the district’s COVID response.
During that year of distance learning, PEF volunteers worked alongside district food service workers to provide more than 3 million meals for children and families. They supported the district’s vaccination clinics and provided essential equipment. To help prepare students to reintegrate into in-person learning, PEF provided its summer program free of charge to hundreds of PUSD students.
This award recognizes PEF’s exceptional support not only in the last year — but for nearly 50 years.
Each year, individuals who are deemed to have gone above and beyond the normal expectations for their roles or jobs in supporting students and schools receive the Superintendent’s Awards. These individuals set a high standard by leading through example, showing exceptional initiative and commitment in supporting PUSD students, the district said.
PASADENA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
During the pandemic, PUSD students, parents, teachers and staff benefited from multiple grants awarded by the Pasadena Community Foundation, which truly went “above and beyond” to ensure that the District’s most vulnerable families had the supplies and the support they needed, school system officials said.
The grants provided:
• Personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic for the staff members in food and nutrition services, custodial services and health programs
• Support for the district’s Families in Transition program so that homeless students and their families had their basic needs met while our campuses were closed
• Support for the special education department to improve outreach during remote learning to families of students with special needs who are also English learners
• Support for Madison Elementary School to provide remote and in-person tutoring and other services for students who struggled with distance learning.
BETH LEYDEN, KLRN
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Beth Leyden and the KLRN team have stepped in to support the district’s communication with its community, officials said. Leyden and KLRN produced videos that kept students, staff and families informed. From messages from the superintendent to videos explaining hand-washing, physical distancing and the proper way to wear masks, KLRN used the magic of images to inform and engage the PUSD community, the district said.
KLRN also kept the public engaged through live streams and broadcasts of Board of Education meetings, even when meetings were held virtually.