Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) congratulates its 2024 Classified School Employees of the Year. With a combined 62 years of employment with the district, Nutrition Services Assistant II Ellen Sugiyama, Payroll Technician Ma Elena Singson “Elena” Concepcion and Electronics Technician Hung “Hank” Nguyen were recognized for their commitment to providing exemplary service to NMUSD’s students, staff and community.
“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to our three amazing classified school employees of the year for their unwavering dedication, passion, and commitment to excellence. This recognition is well-deserved, and we are proud to have such outstanding individuals contributing to the success of our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Wesley Smith.
Ellen Sugiyama ensures each student’s day at Killybrooke Elementary School starts with a smile. As students file past the nutrition window in the multipurpose room, she greets them by name and offers encouraging words as she assists them in selecting their favorite healthy food items. Despite the fast-paced nature of her work, Sugiyma will stop to give a little extra attention to a student who needs it or support a teacher who might bring a class in a bit past the normally scheduled meal period.
“Ellen has an amazing attention to detail. The quality of her work and how she goes about it has made Ellen beloved by all at Killybrooke,” said Todd Hatfield, Director of Nutrition Services.
In 2014, Sugiyama was recognized by the Harbor Council PTA with an honorary service award.
Her dedication to Killybrooke’s students is further borne in her extraordinary attendance record. Sugiyama has spent 39 years not only serving food to the students of the district, but also cheering them on. She regularly attends school flag deck ceremonies to enthusiastically applaud students receiving accolades and honors. “I love the kids and what I do, which makes coming to work each day a joy,” Sugiyama said.
“Ellen is a remarkable example of Killybrooke’s core values. She is respectful, responsible, and always kind,” said Killybrooke Principal Laura Taylor.
Ma Elena Singson “Elena” Concepcion
During her 16 years in the Payroll Department, Elena Concepcion has executed her responsibilities as Payroll Technician not only efficiently and diligently, but also compassionately. She approaches her work with remarkable expertise, professionalism, and dedication, ensuring payroll transactions are executed flawlessly.
“Elena’s job is an essential lifeline for our employees, and she plays a critical part in ensuring their livelihoods. Her efforts behind the scenes allow our teachers and staff to focus on their primary mission of educating and nurturing our students. Plus, she brings a sense of calm and reassurance during the most hectic deadlines and challenging situations,” said Payroll Supervisor Nayeli Parra.
Concepcion is known for adapting to new legislation or evolving guidelines with unwavering positivity. In addition to actively engaging in professional development activities to further hone her skills, she takes a leadership role in training new staff members and sharing her knowledge of the district and the payroll process with everyone. When the department faced staffing shortages, Concepcion volunteered for additional responsibilities so that the district’s payroll process would continue seamlessly.
“Elena is an unsung hero. She does not like much attention, but she should be acknowledged and appreciated for being an outstanding, caring human being and employee. She is a role model in work and life,” said fellow Payroll Technician Amanda Wortham.
Hung “Hank” Nguyen
School security is a high priority at NMUSD, so it was a given that Electronics Technician Hank Nguyen would coordinate the installation of surveillance cameras at multiple school campuses. Nguyen worked with site administrators to determine the best locations for the cameras, then assembled and coordinated a crew of maintenance personnel to complete the task. He also took the extra step of giving principals the tools they would need to get a proper feel for the new surveillance system.
“Hank’s workmanship is excellent, and he takes the time to ensure people understand how to use the equipment,” said Lance Bidnick, Administrative Director II of Maintenance and Operations.
Nguyen is regularly relied upon for his problem-solving abilities. His prior employment in the private sector provided a strong background in servicing fire alarms, and he has extensive experience with low-voltage systems. As the district modernizes its systems, Nguyen has been an invaluable resource for the design team thanks to his expertise. He researched devices and options for reconfiguring systems across the district with a keen eye on building codes to maintain safety districtwide.
Though he provides comprehensive training to school staff on the use of equipment to avoid accidentally tripping an alarm during a fire drill, false alarms sometimes happen. Fire departments in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach will ask for Nguyen when this occurs because they know he can be trusted to correctly reset alarms and improve protocols.
“Hank is so devoted to the district and is always ready and eager to help wherever help is needed. He is reliable, dependable, and thorough in making sure students can continue their education in a safe and secure environment,” Bidnick said.
Sugiyama, Concepcion and Nguyen’s accomplishments will be formally recognized by the NMUSD Board of Education at its May 14 meeting.