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Emergency Child Care and Food Service Staff Receives Superintendent’s Above & Beyond Award

2020 Above & Beyond Winners Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) Emergency Child Care and Food Services staff was awarded the Superintendent’s 2020 Above & Beyond Award. Superintendent Zena Stenvik presented the award as part of the District’s virtual convocation Wednesday, Sept. 2.

Staff included in the award are: Mostafa Al-Jayashi, Rebekah Alm, Elham Ayoubi, Teresa Bailey, Aimee Barrett, Crystal Battle, Trisha Brecto, Julia Celleri, Kyle Clarke, Jane Exel, Abe Fafi, Ali Farah, Tiffany Grams Farkas, Jasmine Fink, Jesse Fisher, Jodi Gadient, Jacqueline Hed, Jake Henderson, Ana Heras, Teresa Hernandez, Caiti Jansen, Claudia Jarmillo, Amy Johnson, Will Johnson, Lori Kaplan, Jessica Kehl, Kristen Kenney, Mohammed Koyongo, Jessica Krause, Julee Ktytor, Cary Laabs, Dave Larson, Andrew Lehrke, Lynn Lindberg, Maggie Maggio, Amy Magnuson, Ashlee Marshik, Becky McMahon, Tanya Moore, Monica Morales, Latifa Moulahid, Alexandria Nelson, Geoff Niemi, Cris Norcross, Bertha Ortega, Joy Peka, Kiron Ramnarine, Val Rolstad, Pat Schroeder, Heidi Sell, Justin Shroyer, Pam Small, Lori Stene, Kristen Stuenkel, Denise Sundstrom, Theresa Swendra, Deb Vera, Linda Willhite, Lisa Wolfe, Alexa Zapata and Jessica Zemlicka.

These staff members are the 14th recipients of the award, which formally recognizes an outstanding individual(s) or organization exceeding the following criteria:

  • Exemplifying Heights Pride;
  • Representing and carrying forward the legacy of what makes our community, and therefore our country, great;
  • Having a passion for supporting students and creating worlds of opportunity for every learner; and
  • Going above and beyond the line of duty in education.

Community Education Coordinator Jodi Gadient – who oversaw the emergency child care along with Early Childhood Manager Tiffany Grams Farkas – says all the staff involved are very deserving and should be proud of their work. “During a very unsettling time [staff] showed up ready to work and put the needs of the students first,” she said. “The staff truly did an amazing job. Everything was new and uncertain, but they remained positive and provided a safe, caring and fun environment.”

“This award belongs to all of staff for the care they provided during an unprecedented time in our world,” said Grams Farkas. “Thank you for being responsive to the needs of our students, families, and the community. You were the part of the structure that provided critical frontline workers the opportunity to fulfill their duties in a time where they were needed the most.”

“I am so proud of the CHPS staff who created and implemented a successful childcare program for children of essential workers this past spring,” said Director of Community Education & Communications Kristen Stuenkel. “We learned on a Sunday morning that we, like all public school districts, were expected to open a free child care program on that next Wednesday! In a matter of three days, school staff were trained on safety procedures, outreach was done to parents, children were enrolled, rooms and activities were prepared and the program began. This could never have happened without the leadership of Jodi and Tiffany.”


Food Services Manager Maggie Maggio, who oversees daily food service operations and the food service staff says she was very excited for her staff when she heard the news of the award. “They worked so hard to provide meals to student during uncertain times and I was happy to see their work acknowledged in this way,” she said. “[I want to] thank them all their work. What they do every day is appreciated by families and the District…you are making a different in these students’ lives.”

“Maggie and the food service staff met the challenge of inventing a whole new menu and meal delivery system to provide meals to our students since the start of COVID-19,” said Director of Finance & Operations Denise Sundstrom who oversees the Food Services Department. “They have shown courage, dedication, and selflessness throughout this uncharted time.”

“I want to thank the child care staff and nutrition service providers for going above and beyond last school year,” said Superintendent Zena Stenvik. “Under normal circumstances, this caring group of people support students daily. Last spring, as schools and businesses closed to in-person service, they demonstrated courage and dedication by caring for the children of emergency workers and packing and delivering thousands of meals to the community.”

Stuenkel noted that the work of this staff to build these programs in such a short amount of time perfectly illustrate our core value of collaboration. “This shows the power of when people come together to work collectively to meet important needs and to build a safer community for all!”