When one door closes, another one opens for HCDE’s October Employee of the Month

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October 6, 2022 by HCDE Communications

A layoff can sometimes be a new beginning.

That’s how Griselda Sandoval, HCDE’s October Employee of the Month, arrived at Harris County Department of Education.

As a senior grant accountant in Business Services, Sandoval is responsible for making sure HCDE is in compliance with its largest grant, Head Start.

“Head Start was the reason I came to HCDE. I was a Head Start student myself, so I love to see the impact we’re making in our community,” said Sandoval. I love to see how we develop our students and teach them about the world.”

But supporting Head Start has a deeper meaning for Sandoval. As a single mother of three sons and with the youngest on the autism spectrum, she came to understand the importance of early childhood education after she was laid off from the oilfield services company Schlumberger in December 2020.

“Like everyone else, I started to reflect on what’s important—your family,” said Sandoval. “That’s when I started to get more involved in my sons’ schools and discovered my passion for education because I had to be a teacher at home. I see teachers as superheroes because they are dedicated and don’t give up on children. I realized how important it is for us as parents to be involved and the importance of the partnership between schools, parents, and students.”

After being laid off, Sandoval took a temporary job at Northwest Assistance Ministries while she found something more stable.

Griselda Sandoval poses for a photo with her sons.

“That’s where I started grant accounting. It just came so easy for me because of its purpose—for the community,” she said. “That’s when I started my master’s degree. One semester, Dr. Amezcua was my professor. He kept telling me, ‘You have to join my team.’ Needless to say, I’m here.”

“She had wonderful skills in the classroom,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jesus Amezcua. “Now that she’s joined us, she has exhibited those skills and is taking on additional responsibilities. Everything she does, she does it with a great attitude and a great smile.”

In just six months with HCDE, Sandoval has already shown her value to colleagues and the divisions she serves.

“One of the things that I’ve realized throughout my career is that everybody has their language based on their profession,” she said. “If you present information like an accountant, others may not understand. My mindset is that I always have to present numbers so that even a stranger walking down the street can understand.”

This insight has been a key factor in Sandoval’s success as a colleague and an accountant.

“I am so excited that Griselda is getting employee of the month,” said Senior Director of Head Start Venetia Peacock. “Her work ethic is incomparable. I’m a very visual person, and sometimes there’s so much information. One of my favorite things that she’s done is taken all of my grants and turned them into pictures so I can quickly look at encumbrances, balances, and expenditures. That has helped me tremendously to move quickly because I want to be as efficient as possible.”

Among the additional responsibilities Sandoval has temporarily taken over is the accounting for CASE for Kids.

“CASE and Head Start fight over her,” joked Chief Accounting Officer Marcia Leiva. “The schools call her and ask for help, so she will Facetime them or call them on Teams to help them put invoices together. She troubleshoots issues with IT, calls CASE’s 21st Century grant campuses, and helps the other accountants with invoices. She goes beyond her scope of work and never says no to a challenge.”

However, her most endearing trait is the warmth she brings to the team.

“She’s so positive. It’s refreshing,” said Leiva.

“I don’t think I have ever seen her not smile. What makes her so special is her ability to provide customer service to other divisions. She works well with others, especially at the ground level,” said Amezcua. “It is always a challenge to find somebody who can work well with other departments, not just the business office.”

Oscar Gabriel, Griselda Sandoval’s 5-year-old son

However, for Sandoval, her most important relationship is with her family.

“I’m always focused on creating a legacy for my children to follow,” she said. “Every time one of my children was born, I dedicated a degree to them. My associate’s degree was dedicated to my oldest son Fabio, my bachelor’s degree to Ethan, and my master’s degree will be dedicated to the little one, Oscar Gabriel. It took me a while, but I’m not giving up!”

“I’m very proud of her,” said Amezcua. “We expect great things out of her. She’s one of our rising stars.”

“She’s one of us, so we love having her on our team. We hope that she stays with us for a long time,” Leiva said.

At HCDE, Sandoval has found colleagues who share her values of community and exceptional work.

“I think it’s just the best workplace I’ve ever worked. I don’t want it to change,” she said. “I want this to be my home.”

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