Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A Huntington Beach elementary school custodian who worked with police to help catch suspects in a series of arson fires on campus and speaks to students about how he became a U.S. citizen was named Tuesday one of six “Classified School Employees of the Year” around the state.

Efren Barrera, who has been head custodian at College View Elementary School for 16 years, was credited by the state Department of Education not just for his work, but for his “quiet demeanor, positive attitude and infectious smile.”

According to the state, Barrera annually speaks to fourth-graders at the school about his journey becoming an American citizen, expressing his pride in being able to raise and lower the U.S. flag on campus each day.

State officials also said Barrera set up a surveillance system on campus in response to a series of overnight fires and worked with law enforcement to review the recordings and identify suspects.

“Our schools would cease to function without the classified employees who keep them clean and safe, who make sure our students get to school and receive the proper nutrition once they are there, and who contribute to an overall positive school culture and caring environment,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“Our 2016 Classified School Employees of the Year represent the very best of the best,” Torlakson said. “I applaud them and thank them for their important service to California’s children and families.”

The other winners are a cook in Redding, an instructional assistant in San Diego County, a secretary in Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County, a campus security officer in Napa and a trainer of bus drivers in Oakdale in Stanislaus County.

— Wire reports 

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