At the annual conference, the Council of Classified Employees celebrated the diverse work of support staff in a dazzling panoply showing the many hats they wear.

CCE Southern Vice President Carl Williams called out classified job titles one after another. Secretary, paraprofessional, groundskeeper, custodian and media technician. Admissions and records technician, safety officer, library technician, accounting coordinator, and bus driver.

One by one, attendees mounted the stage to collect the hat with their job title on it, gradually filling the stage to depict the wide-ranging work of classified employees.

Then the tenor of the call-outs changed. Williams summoned “relationship experts,” because the kids come to us for sage advice about their friends and family. Then “crystal ball” was the call: The kids expect us to know everything before it happens. Dr. Phil: The kids want us to be mediators, between them and their friends and family members. ATM machine: The kids want money for lunch or change for the vending machines. Mentors: We support students during the ups and downs of their lives.

More and more members who resonated with those support roles came forward. By the end, a jam-packed stage demonstrated more clearly than ever before the incredible variety of jobs classified employees do with special skills, kindness, and compassion.


Three members, nominated by their local unions, were named Members of the Year at the Classified Conference held December 5-7 in Irvine.

  • Kathy O’Byrne Shewchuk, United Educators of San Francisco, is a special education paraprofessional at Balboa High School who works with students in a caring and confident way, especially students who have specific medical needs. She is a master of the union phone bank.
  • Robin Watkins, AFT Guild San Diego, is a library technician at Miramar College and the union’s classified vice president there. She represents classified, and sometimes faculty, in grievances, serves on a voluntary benefits association, and coordinates site wellness committees.
  • Gary Potts, a Pasadena City College network administrator, supports students through a mentoring program and coaching basketball. He serves as union treasurer and is a fount of institutional knowledge. He was instrumental in his unit choosing AFT as their union.