The North Central Educational Service District (NCESD) recently recognized more than 60 school nurses and health room assistants with its 2021 Friend of Children Award. The award honors the significant role health services staff play in ensuring schools are prepared to address COVID requirements in order to keep area students and communities safe.

In addition to ensuring compliance with frequently changing guidelines from national, state and regional health agencies, health services staff serve their districts through contract tracing, testing, sick room support, materials and equipment coordination, and staff, student and parent education. Many hours have been spent ensuring that staff are well-prepared, processes are in place and any signs of illness or potential outbreaks are quickly addressed.

Regional public health experts have noted that students are safer at school than outside of school, explained Cathy Meuret, the School Nurse Corps director for NCESD. That level of safety stems from a controlled environment in which students, staff and visitors are screened before entering a school, isolation and quarantine timelines are followed, and masking, distancing and hygiene are routine expectations.

“These efforts, overseen by school nurses and health room assistants, have kept COVID transmission and outbreaks in schools to almost zero,” Meuret added. “Our region’s students have been able to return to in-person classroom instruction sooner and more safely compared to other regions in the state and country.”

The Friend of Children award was created in 1992 and recognizes outstanding individuals in the communities represented by the districts within the NCESD’s service area: Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties. With the desire to honor the best of the best in a school district or community, award recipients are selected based on the selfless and extraordinary contributions they’ve made to local schools in order to make their community better.

During a surprise event hosted via Zoom, NCESD Superintendent Michelle Price recognized all school nurses and health room assistants serving in the region’s schools. Recipients receive an engraved plaque.

“The nurses throughout our North Central Washington region have worked beyond comprehension to support students and staff in their safe return to in-person learning. Without them, none of us would be in person today,” Dr. Price said. “We are full of gratitude for their dedication and commitment to our children.”

Congratulations to the following 2021 award recipients:

Chelan County school districts

Cascade School District

  • Kesha Smith
  • Shelly Zehm

Cashmere School District

  • Amber Varrelman
  • Adriana Castro

Entiat School District

  • Judy Black-Schmidt

Lake Chelan School District

  • Eric Flynn
  • Erika Scroggie

Manson School District

  • Michelle Rogge
  • Maria Zaragoza

Wenatchee School District

  • Katy Boreson
  • Jennefer Sanchez Botello
  • Jennifer Douglas
  • Katherine Dreyer
  • Rochelle Jessup
  • Taylor Mason
  • Julie Robinson
  • Melanie Wallace

Douglas County School Districts

Bridgeport School District

  • Susan Sloan
  • Jacquelin Aparicio

Eastmont School District

  • Erica Brooks
  • Phyllis Fries
  • Sylvia Renteria
  • Blanca Salgado

Grand Coulee Dam School District

  • Melissa Dunlap
  • Julie Sherratt
  • Shauni Ross
  • Melanie Herndon

Mansfield School District

  • Brenda Webster

Orondo School District

  • Brenda Webster

Palisades School District

  • Blanca Salgado

Waterville School District

  • Jackie Finkbeiner

Grant County School Districts

Coulee-Hartline School District:

  • Sarah Kruger

Ephrata School District

  • Pam Cleveringa
  • Shellie Hansen

Moses Lake School District

  • Lisa Ballard
  • Cathie Hunt
  • Debbie Johnson
  • Liz Pray
  • Courtney Russell
  • Michelle Starnes
  • Cindy Welsh
  • Jennifer Zook

Quincy School District

  • Ellen Bush
  • Lenore Low
  • Isabel Diaz
  • Anilu Rios

Soap Lake School District

  • Linda Baker

Warden School District

  • Kimberly Hansen

Wilson Creek School District

  • Sarah Kruger

Okanogan County School Districts

Brewster School District

  • Elvia Martinez
  • Nicole Smith

Methow Valley School District

  • Adriana Vanbianchi

Okanogan School District

  • Lacey Chamberlin

Nespelem School District

  • Karen Wapato

Omak School District

  • Shawna Hollenbeck
  • Laura Snider
  • Heidi Peterson

Oroville School District

  • Caryn McNair

Pateros School District

  • Amanda Davis

Tonasket School District

  • Deborah Green
  • Jill Wehmeyer

Other Award Recipients

  • Cathy Meuret, North Central Educational Service District
  • Laura Brumfield
  • Kristin Lester
  • Ann Benadom, St. Joseph Catholic School
  • Chelan-Douglas Health District
  • Okanogan County Public Health
  • Grant County Health District

Becca Freimuth is a communications specialist for the North Central Educational Service District.