The Los Alamitos Unified School District has named three staff members as 2021 Classified Employees of the Year: Russell Mims, Cassandra Palacios, and Linda Loparco.
Mims, a night custodian at McAuliffe Middle School since 2001, is regarded as an integral part of the school community and focuses on student needs in his approach to his work. “Russell has truly embodied what it means to bring joy to work,” said McAuliffe Principal Dr. Ryan Weiss-Wright. “Russell can always be seen smiling, greeting every staff member by name, and tackling difficult tasks with a positive attitude.”
Despite taking on more responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, Russell is always willing to help no matter what the task is, Weiss-Wright said. “The McAuliffe staff is so grateful for Russell’s tireless work to make our campus safe and ready for our students.”
Palacios, a licensed vocational nurse at Los Alamitos High School, came to the District in 2013. A 1995 graduate of the high school and lifelong resident of the community, she turned to nursing after a first career in the mortgage industry. Los Alamitos High School Principal Dr. Gregg Stone said Palacios exhibits calm under pressure, and “her diligence for looking out for the health of all students and families is evident in her daily work. She realizes that health matters cannot always wait until the morning. Because of this, it is not uncommon to receive a phone call or email from her late into the evening or on weekends.”
Palacios, who has five children, has also served as a youth basketball coach, team parent for youth baseball, Girl Scout Leader, room parent at Rossmoor Elementary, and as a board member for both the LAHS football and girls basketball teams.
Loparco, the lead food service assistant at McGaugh Elementary, has been with the District since 2000. For most of those years, Loparco was well known to the high school students as she served morning snacks and lunch. “Linda loves the connection she gets from serving food to her students and how these nutritious meals lead to their success in the classroom,” said Celeste Calubaquib, Director of Food Services for the District. “Everyone loves her passion, dedication, commitment and demeanor.”
Loparco moved to McGaugh in 2017 where she led a 30% increase in meal participation over two years until the COVID pandemic hit. Now, in addition to making sure students on campus are served, she also operates the drive-through meal distribution system to maintain the connection with students attending remotely. “Linda exemplifies our District’s ‘Better Together’ mantra daily,” Calubaquib said.