Belforest Elementary School (BES) Principal Jonathan Ellis didn’t worry about the opening of a new school in the midst of a global pandemic, saying leadership helped make the transition smooth.
“When [Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent] Coach [Eddie] Tyler announced I had the job here, he gave me two powerful things that you never get in a career: He gave me empowerment to make decisions and he gave me time,” Ellis said “So, in January — we’re talking about a year ago — I had six months to really go and find great staff, to talk about all the procedures, to talk about all the scheduling, to talk about all the intricacies of the building, all the stuff you could imagine. So, really when this year opened, it was really one of the smoothest openings I’ve ever had.”
However, when it was time for teachers in Baldwin County to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to make their jobs in an usual year easier, Ellis stepped up. He led by example, informing all teachers he would be getting the vaccine when USA Health came to the school to inoculate workers.
“Personally, I don’t listen to the noise. I just do my job and if I think there’s something that will help make me more effective at my job, I’m going to do it,” Ellis said. “I believe in science. I believe in our leadership.”
Ellis called the vaccine “just another tier or level of security” for teachers and school staff. He said he is “absolutely excited” for the next school year and what it means for the small community.
“What I’m most excited about now that we’ve had this experience, all the things we wanted to provide to our community, we’ll be able to provide again,” he said. “So, our first year we had a lot of activities and programs planned to really be symbiotic with the community. This year really put us just a little bit back. That’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
Ellis and his BES co-workers joined a number of teachers getting vaccinated in February along both sides of Mobile Bay.
Anthony Sampson, Baldwin County Public Schools director of prevention and support, said the opportunity to partner with USA Health to vaccinate teachers and staff in every county school was “awesome.” He said the vaccination clinic is just another way Baldwin schools are raising the bar for employees.
“It was great assurance on top of all those things that have already happened,” Sampson said. “There was an opportunity for a bonus; the superintendent and the board did that. That was great. From that, here’s an opportunity for the vaccine and we’re able to be on the cutting edge and able to provide this for our employees.”
USA Health Director of Pharmacy Dr. Allen Broome told reporters teams from the hospital system spent three days traveling to every school to give vaccinations to every teacher and staff member who wanted them.
“The teachers have been extremely thankful and the administration has been fantastic,” Broome said. “The teachers are the ones you can see are grateful and thankful.”
In Mobile County, teachers had an opportunity to participate in two clinics through partnerships with the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS).
MCPSS Director of Communications Rena Philips said teachers began receiving vaccinations Monday, Feb. 8 through an ongoing partnership with Mobile Infirmary. The system even brought MCPSS nurses to Infirmary ProHealth to help stick teachers.
“It took about 30 minutes total,” she said of the process. “It was very efficient.”
Philips said another partnership resulted in a vaccination clinic for teachers through USA Health at the Civic Center. She said MCPSS has secured enough vaccine to allow for all teachers and staff to be vaccinated.
Overall, vaccine supply is better than it was at the beginning of the rollout, Broome said.
“We have a good supply,” he said. “The Civic Center has been going very well. The state’s working very hard to get us what we need and our capacity for storage is very high and our capacity to deliver vaccines is very high.”
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