Corcoran Unified School District recently named its top employees for the 2016-2017 school year. The district selects an administrator, a teacher, a classified employee and also selects a volunteer of the year. The winners were selected from a list of nominees. Corcoran’s selections will be submitted to the Kings County Office of Education as consideration for employees of the year for the county. Following are the local winners as submitted by Donnetta Murray:
David Searson, Teacher of the Year
Physics always had a special place in David Searson’s heart. But it took him awhile to get back where he felt he belonged. After graduating from Northern Monterey County High School, the Prunedale native attended California State University-Fresno where he majored in Philosophy with Pre-Law. He then earned his Juris Doctorate from San Joaquin College of Law and spent a year as a defense lawyer working in Workers comp cases with a few private cases on the side. The 80-hour work weeks felt even longer once his first child was born and he saw his job take time away from his family.
When the company made decisions to downsize, Mr. Searson took the opportunity to substitute teach in the Delano area and found he loved it! The school mentioned they might be looking for a teacher and he ended up teaching sixth grade for six years in Delano. He went back to school and picked up his multiple subject credential. Next he tried a fifth grade class in Bakersfield, but his heart kept speaking to him about physics. David made the decision to teach physics and earned his single subject credential by passing the test. He studied hard non-stop for six months. He said he had considered physics in college when he had a great teacher who had inspired him. All of this lead him to Corcoran High School where he took on his first physics teacher position.
CHS Principal Antonia Stone says, “Mr. Searson has been with Corcoran High School for six years. From the very first day, he has been genuine, caring and very personable. He is a really good role model for the students. He teaches and clearly loves Physics, and he has a great passion for robotics and rocketry. Mr. Searson is loved by all the staff and his students and he believes in always encouraging all of his students to succeed.”
This year he is teaching five conceptual physics classes and one AP physics class, which students could possibly use for college units. He has had rocketry and robotics clubs at the school and two years took members of his Rocketry Club back to Washington D.C. where they competed with 150 teams from across the nation. This year he has started an animation club. In the future, he would like to see CHS host a Science or Physics Day. His daughters compete in those events in the Bakersfield area.
David and his wife of 22 years, Melissa, have two daughters, Madalyn, 18 and a student at U.C. Santa Barbara, and Emily, 16. He has really interesting hobbies, such as making 15 century armor, computer programming, such as video games. He enjoys spending time with his family, going to Disneyland and Yosemite.
“Mr. Searson is a talented and focused teacher who has a passion to see his students appreciate Physics and the science behind it,” says Superintendent Rich Merlo. “Mr. Searson is always looking for tools and methods that help his students engage in their work and to help them see how they can get involved with their learning beyond the confines of the classroom.”
Asked about his accomplishments, Mr. Searson says he is proudest of letting people know about physics, which he considers a highly important part of science. He wants to develop a love of learning for his students, challenging but not so hard that it turns them away. Sounds like Corcoran students got lucky when Mr. Searson found his true calling in life.
Mark Burden, Employee of the Year
While Mark Burden has been officially working for Corcoran Unified for 36 years, his history of working at the schools and in the community goes way back to when he was still a student. At the age of 13 he was chopping weeds and that was followed by helping Frank Avitia and Mr. Rivas moving sprinklers by hand at the school grounds during summers. He also worked for Mr. Toney and Mr. Grier, custodians at John Muir, pushing brooms down the hallways. He remembers two single push brooms were hooked together to cover twice the space. He also pumped gas at Charlie’s Texaco after school.
A native of Corcoran, Mark attended Fremont and John Muir schools prior to graduating from CHS in 1978. He then worked for Plaster contractor Ray Harris and farmer Bud Balum before working fulltime for CUSD starting January 1, 1981. He helped build the center pole barn at the Ag Farm and was small engine mechanic and bus driver prior to transferring to groundsman, working with Billy Reed. Around 1992, became the head groundsman. He is proud of helping CHS look spiffy in its effort to win the Distinguished School Award.
Mark and his wife, Debbie, who is the Bret Harte Site Director of the After School Program for the RAC, have four grown children, Misty, Mark, Dustin and Demi. They have two grandchildren, Ezekiel, four, and Zanda Lee, two, with another grandson expected in February. He loves hunting dove, fishing and has been active in softball programs since he was 18 and still plays to this day in a league with Dustin. He can boast that all four of his children have attended college, with two having graduated and two continuing their studies.
Mark was nominated for this honor by Alisa Gomez, who said, “When I think of Mark and his character, I think of a person that does what it takes to get the job done. No excuses, no whining, no time for any of this. He is a person who will help anyone that is in need of help, never turning his back on anyone.” She added that when visiting teams come to CHS, he goes out of his way to accommodate them, hauling their equipment out to the field, supplying them with water and providing a welcoming spirit from CUSD. Most schools do not do this for visiting teams.
MOT Director Marty Raeber says, “For 36 years Mark has devoted his time to the staff and students of Corcoran Unified School District . Mark is the head groundsman for the District and oversees six employees and their daily duties. Mark Burden is a valued employee”
Accolades also came from Superintendent Rich Merlo, “I have always known Mark to be conscientious of his work and has always been open to improving our grounds and making our campuses more attractive for our students, staff and community.”
He claims the special part of his job is working with kids and the community. Biggest improvement he has seen is updated equipment, such as a backpack blower instead of pushing brooms, which makes all work more efficient allowing the crew to get more done. In addition to keeping the District’s properties neat and clean, they also help with athletic events, Relay 4 Life, graduations, promotions and anything outdoors. His character, humbleness and values are reflected every day in his pride as a District employee!
Karen Ebrom, Volunteer of the Year
Karen Ebrom thought she was retiring from over 20 years of service with Head Start only to find that need of connection with children pulling her back into an almost fulltime position as a volunteer with Corcoran schools. Because of her dedication to Corcoran students, Ms. Ebrom has been selected as the 2017 Corcoran Unified School District Volunteer of the Year.
Karen was nominated for the honor by Mark Twain Principal Mike Anderson, who said that she is a hard worker and positive influence at their school. “She goes the extra mile to insure the best from each student and staff member,” added Mr. Anderson, “and completes all her tasks with a great attitude and smile on her face.”
Karen’s family are longtime Corcoranites. She grew up in the community, attending Mark Twain and John Muir schools prior to graduating from CHS in 1982. She received her Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from College of the Sequoias. She then attended CSU-Fresno for one year with the hopes of becoming an elementary teacher prior to returning home to help her mom and then “life happened.” She married and had her son, Bradley Ebrom, now 29 years old. She eventually found her way back to her love of education by helping out at Head Start when her son was attending. That led to a position as a teacher’s assistant and she worked her way up to Site Manager of Head Start’s Preston Green Learning Center in Hanford, which included eight classrooms and a variety of school programs. After “retiring” three years ago, she found herself drawn back to her need to be with children by volunteering in the classroom of her grandson Jason, now a 10-year-old at Mark Twain. She also has a four-year-old granddaughter, Brooklynn, who lives in Visalia. At Fremont, she worked in the classroom and student store.
Ms. Ebrom said she started volunteering with the thought that it would be one day a week or so. That progressed to almost a five day-a-week job, depending on the need of the schools and what was going on in her personal life. She says that volunteering is very fulfilling to her because she missed being with children and their families once she retired. She likes providing a consistency to children. For some she fills in as a “grandmother” figure in their lives.
“I see a need for both the children and the staff,” she noted. “If I can free up the teachers by doing things for them, that allows them to dedicate their time to quality teaching. Having been an administrator, I know how important it is to have that time. I know what it meant to me when I got assistance.”
Mr. Anderson says Ms. Ebrom does a variety of jobs around the school, reading to kids, making copies and assisting teachers, helping the office staff, answering phones and setting up the monthly PBIS celebrations, which are just a few of the many things she does. She also has sat on site councils at both Fremont and Mark Twain.
In addition to helping at Mark Twain, Karen additionally has continued volunteering services to Fremont two years after Jason left for Mark Twain. She tells the Fremont teachers to text her and if she is free she will come to help. She realizes that it will not be that long before Jason is in high school and she will not be needed there as much. But she will most likely be doing some volunteer time over in Visalia once her granddaughter is in school. She says it is important to her to be available to her grandchildren. Asked what she does for hobbies and relaxation, and you get the same answer – doing things with her grandchildren, such as baking, reading, cards and board games.
Superintendent Rich Merlo says, “We are most grateful for Karen Ebrom and the heart and soul she gives to our schools every day she assists us with our work to see each and every student learn. Ms. Ebrom has a love for our kids and part of her desire in volunteering is to free up time for our teachers to allow them more time to work directly with our students.”