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Carolyn Griffin Bugert Named Washington State School Employee of the Year

Champion for students recognized for transformational leadership and building community partnerships

Carolyn Griffin-Bugert, grants administrator for the Wenatchee School District, was named the 2017 Washington State Classified School Employee of the Year. The announcement was made on May 8 by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

“It’s an honor,” Carolyn says of the award. “One of the reasons that I’ve been successful in bringing money to the district is the people that I work with—the people who are actually doing the programming at the schools, which is not me. Great things happen if I step out of the way and let the staff do their work.”

“I recently had the opportunity to spend the morning with the other eight award winners from ESD’s across the state. I was struck by the magnitude of their accomplishments in their own districts, and the passion they have for their jobs and the compassion for the students they serve. There are great people working in education all across Washington and I am honored to play a small part.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal recognized nine Regional Classified School Employees of the Year and announced the winner at a ceremony in the Old Capitol Building in Olympia.

The nine Educational Service Districts (ESDs) throughout the state participate in the Classified School Employee of the Year program by selecting one winner from each region’s nominees to serve as the regional school employee of the year.  Each regional winner completes the state application and then competes with the other eight winners for Washington State School Employee of the Year.

“Carolyn is the kind of employee we need in every school district,” Reykdal said. “She is dedicated to engaging with her community, partnering with local businesses, and creating a positive legacy of progressive learning in her region. On behalf of OSPI staff, thank you for your commitment to Washington students.”

“The programs that Carolyn has initiated in our school district serve over 2,500 students yearly,” said Wenatchee Superintendent Brian Flones. “In nearly 20 years of service, Carolyn’s impact is far reaching for our students and has provided them with opportunities, hopes, and dreams that will last a lifetime.”

Carolyn has targeted her efforts on impacting graduation rates and post-graduate outcomes for some of the most needy students. To do this she has used large grants from GEAR UP and 21st Century Community Learning Centers along with numerous smaller public and private grants to increase the number of Latino and low-income students taking AP classes, provide financial support for students to go to college, strengthen alternative high school options that outperform the state averages, and much more. Carolyn’s success at securing grant funding has also engaged the local business community in providing matching dollars for many of the programs.

“Over my almost 20 years with the district, all of the programs I have been involved with have focused on helping low-income, minority and under-achieving students reach their full potential. These students and their families sometimes feel ‘voiceless’ in the education system- the students don’t realize their own potential and their parents might not know ow to advocate for their student. Sometimes students just need a bit more support to be successful, and that’s what I hope these programs provide. Everyone should have as many doors opened to them as possible. I hope to be a door-opener,” she explained.

“As a former middle school and elementary principal, I have seen firsthand the benefit students gain from the focus these programs provide – especially low-income and minority students,” says Director of State and Federal Programs Bill Eagle. “Because of Carolyn’s work, many students over many years have come to believe in their ability to attend and succeed at the college level.”

Statistics have shown that many of the grant-funded programs, like the After School Program, result in higher achievement in academic scores for students.

“You can create a lot of great programs, and feel good about what you’re doing,” says Carolyn, “but if it’s actually not improving students’ test scores, if it’s not improving their lives, if it’s not improving the lives of their parents, then it’s kind of a waste of time. If what we’re doing has value, then we do more of it. If it doesn’t have value, then we adjust and try something different.”