Last Updated on May 22, 2008 by Paulette Brown-Hinds



Six champions of public education – representing Chino Valley Unified, Colton Joint Unified, Redlands Unified and Silver Valley Unified, as well as the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools – were recognized with the 17th annual San Bernardino County Education Medal of Honor. Dr. Don Averill, chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College District and Janey Kozlowski, a former legislative analyst who spent 28 years with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools were recipients of the 2008 Distinguished Service Award.

“These people represent all those in our schools, communities and businesses who are dedicated and committed to public education,” County Superintendent Herbert Fischer said. “We celebrate our recipients for the vital role they fill with service to our schools and students.”

The six categories, respective winners and districts served were: Volunteer in Action/Community Volunteer, Renee Kern and John Walsh, community volunteers for Redlands Unified School District; Volunteer in Action/Service Group, Rotary Club of Colton, Colton Joint Unified School District; Partners in Education/Small Business or Franchise, Cheryl Brown, co¬owner of the Black Voice News, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools; Partners in Education/Corporation, Chick-fil-A, Chino Valley Unified School District; Excellence in Education/Education Professional, Ernst Johnson, teacher, Silver Valley Unified School District; and Excellence in Education/Student Alumni, Larry Dodge, philanthropist, Redlands Unified.

Dr. Don Averill has spent 47 years in public education, the last eight as the chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College District. His ability to form effective partnerships among business, community and political leaders to benefit the academic pursuit of students has been one of the hallmarks of his educational career.

Back row (from left to right): Larry Dodge of Redlands Unified, John Walsh of Redlands Unified, Ernst Johnson of Silver Valley Unified, Don Averill of San Bernardino Community College District.

Like Averill, Kozlowski has made an impact on public education that extends far from the borders of San Bernardino County.

Serving as the staff to the San Bernardino County District Advocates for Better Schools (SANDABS) since its inception 20 years ago, Kozlowski was the glue that made discussions between educators and legislators stick together. As a recognized statewide leader on educational legislative issues, she provided a voice not only for San Bernardino County, but the entire region.

Volunteer in Action/Community Volunteers

As co-chairs of the bond committee to build a new high school in Redlands Unified School District, Renee Kern and John Walsh have left a lasting legacy for future students in the district.

“The successful passage of the Measure J Bond was due primarily to the tireless efforts of Renee and John,” wrote Brad Mason, director of Human Resources for Redlands Unified, in his nomination of Kern and Walsh.

Despite facing some fiscally uncertain times, Kern and Walsh were beacons in the community to convince voters the value of supporting students with a new high school, which will be called Citrus Valley when it opens in 2009. The $65.5-million bond passed with 66.4 percent of the vote. “The school will stand for decades educating our community’s youth and providing opportunities they need for a better life and much of the thanks goes out to two remarkable people, John Walsh and Renee Kern,” Mason wrote.

Volunteer in Action/Service Group

Even though the Rotary Club of Colton has a small membership with 15 participants, it has made a big impact on the students of the Colton Joint Unified School District with its educational programs. The Rotary Club donates a dictionary to every third-grader in the district. That’s more than 1,200 students at 18 different schools.

In the community, the club holds fundraisers like its annual pancake breakfast, golf tournaments and working a fireworks booth. It takes money earned from the fundraisers to finance a myriad of educational programs that benefit Colton Joint Unified students.

The group also provides funds for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a training program for youth leadership, citizenship and personal growth. It also takes part in the Personal Rotary Youth Development Experience, a leadership retreat for seventh-graders.

“The Rotary Club of Colton has contributed greatly to our children’s education for many years and continues to do it with pride,” wrote Cynthia Gonzales in her nomination of the group.

Partners in Education/Small Business or Franchise

Cheryl Brown, co-owner of The Black Voice News newspaper and its foundation, has brought history to life by organizing annual trips as part of the Footsteps to Freedom Underground Railroad tours.

“Her work in conducting the Footsteps to Freedom tours is a crowning achievement for public education in San Bernardino County,” wrote Carolyn Tillman of County Schools in her nomination of Brown.

Having conducted 10 tours, Brown has taken more than 300 teachers, students and community members on the tours that start in Kentucky and trace the footsteps of the Underground Railroad all the way to Canada. The Underground Railroad provided escape routes for slaves between the 1830s through the end of the Civil War.

Participants in the tour said the events have been life-changing experiences. Brown has partnered with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, as well as California State University, San Bernardino, and the Riverside County Office of Education, to arrange the tours.

Partners in Education/Corporation

When Chick-fil-A opened a restaurant in Chino Hills four years ago, it began providing sustenance to Chino Valley Unified students with educational programs that recognized achievement in the classroom.

Three programs Chick-fil-A has instituted have become popular with Chino Valley students. One, called Core Essentials, gives teachers and parents tools for enforcing key values like honesty, friendship, courtesy and compassion. All 24 of the districts elementary schools take part in the program.

Another program, Chick-fil-A Movers and Shakers, rewards character in secondary-level schools. The third program rewards students with perfect attendance for not missing a day of school during each semester. No matter what the event, the corporation’s mascot, its costumed cow reminding people to eat more “chikin,” has become a symbol for the restaurants popular involvement in educational activities.

“Chick-fil-A has created awareness for education in our area by continuing to be a sponsor of events to involve our schools, as well as our community members,” wrote Edmond Heatley, superintendent of Chino Valley Unified, in his nomination.

Excellence in Education/Education Professional

Although his moniker for Silver Valley Unified is as a teacher, Ernst Johnson is seen as an institution by his students and among his peers. Johnson was one of the founding fathers of the district nearly three decades ago. As a teacher today of alternative education at Calico High School, Johnson has made a lifetime worth of impact on students throughout the school district.

“Mr. Johnson is an amazing collection of professional educational experience,” wrote Calico Principal Jeff Baggett in his nomination of Johnson. “He has served astutely and successfully in a wide array of assignments from teacher to site principal.”

To his stud
ents, Johnson is an icon who fuels their love for learning. His implementation of a computer learning program called Plato this year was done solely to advance individual student academic success. The computer learning program has been so successful in increasing student academic achievement, it is now used throughout the district.

“He has the ability to get students to reach desired outcomes,” said fellow teacher Gunder Andreasen.

Excellence in Education/Student Alumni

Whether it’s on the athletic fields or in the classroom, Larry Dodge and his family have made a profound impact on the lives of students in the Redlands Unified School District with an investment in a new stadium, as well as the AAA Academy program that benefits students district-wide.

In 2003, Dodge donated $5.5 million to build an on-site stadium and upgrade facilities at Redlands High School. The new construction also resulted in renovations and upgrades to all the sports fields on the Redlands campus. Dodge, who is a 1957 graduate of Redlands High, also provided the start-up funding for AAA Academy. It is a fee-based academic, arts and athletics enrichment program that provides instruction outside the traditional school day. Thousands of elementary, middle school and high school students have benefited from the program.

“His two acts of generosity will last for generations to come as students of the Redlands Unified School District benefit from the legacy of Larry Dodge, his wife Kristina, and their family,” wrote Brad Mason, director of Human Resources for Redlands Unified, in his nomination of Dodge.