If you're looking for Trent Duffey at lunch time, don't bother with the teachers lounge.
His office is probably a wasted trip as well.
You won't find him taking a break either.
In fact, if he's even eating, the fourth-year Lyman Gilmore Middle School assistant principal is probably with the students, counseling and working with them at the lunch table.
"He's got a clipboard in his hands he walks around with all day long," Principal Chris Roberts said.
"On that clipboard are kids he needs to connect with and touch in some way during the day, whether it be touching upon their academics, touching upon their behaviors, touching upon their needs — and it might even be a need at home — he's got that clipboard and he's checking in with those kids all day long."
Duffey's performance hasn't gone unnoticed. Already recognized by the Association of California School Administrators within both the county and the region, Duffey was named the state's Co-Administrator of the Year in Tuesday's edition of Education California, the organization's official newspaper.
WHAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD
Duffey, widely known for his extreme humility, credited those with whom he works.
"I really feel that there's many people in this area who this award could've easily gone to," he said. "I am very fortunate to work at Grass Valley School District with such great people who truly care about kids."
The comment was made via email after an in-person interview in which Duffey repeatedly passed credit on to his co-workers.
According to Roberts, Duffey was recognized for specific actions as well as his overall performance as an assistant principal.
Among his roles, he leads the district's safety committee, he played a key role in the formation of the school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program and he's implemented a "Shout Out" program where students are recognized for positive behavior at school. A certificate is placed in the Student Center and Duffey calls the student's parents.
That's right, an assistant principal calls a student's parents at home to talk about positive behavior.
The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program focuses on encouraging good behavior, and the key is prevention, not punishment.
"The teachers have taken it and run with it," Duffey said. "It's really all teacher-driven at this point … It's a hot thing in schools right now, so I think that might have helped (earn the award). That may be one of the things that stood out."
Duffey pointed out a poster in Roberts' office, a product of the program, which lists goals and a clear code of conduct and expectations:
Be ready to learn.
"Trent was instrumental in coming up with our school-wide expectations … Although PBIS is a program run all over the United States, it's a program patterned to the school itself," Roberts said. "He has first-hand information of the needs of our school, and that's how he was able to come up with those expectations."
Duffey's in charge of discipline at Lyman Gilmore, which has seen a dramatic drop in suspensions and referrals since he was hired. Roberts credited him with changing the culture at the school.
Duffey also oversees the district's four schools' safety programs, coordinating district personnel and county emergency first responders to create a safe environment.
"That's a huge responsibility," Roberts said. "Our No. 1 job is for them to come to school and return home safely. Trent does a wonderful job at that."
IMPORTANCE OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
Friends and relatives told Roberts he was crazy when he went into middle school education.
In his eyes, it's a critical time in kids' lives. High school is around the corner. Drugs and alcohol are creeping up around students. It's a time when kids can go in completely opposite directions.
"I've always felt like middle school is a student's last, best chance before they get into high school and start creating some habits, good and bad," Roberts said.
"We tell kids all the time, and I've heard Trent say this, we're all about chances … It's about giving kids an opportunity to succeed and making sure they know we're not giving up on them. I've seen that from Mr. Duffey on a consistent basis. He's just not giving up on kids."
Duffey gave credit to Roberts for serving as a positive mentor.
"Being able to work with Chris has been a great thing," he said. "Ultimately, I wanted to have a positive influence on kids. I think teaching is a good way to do that, and I did that with my classes (as a teacher). That was more of a controlled environment.
"Here, I'm able to have that influence in a little greater sphere. I'm focusing my influence now on kids at a crucial point in their lives."