Georgia school leaders to coordinate teacher vaccination planning

210116-Atlanta- Alex Lorber, a teacher at Wilson Creek Elementary School, gets her COVID-19 vaccine during an event Saturday morning, Jan. 16, 2021, for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
210116-Atlanta- Alex Lorber, a teacher at Wilson Creek Elementary School, gets her COVID-19 vaccine during an event Saturday morning, Jan. 16, 2021, for Fulton County School employees and their spouses who are 65 and older at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo: Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

This story has been updated to include the list of superintendents who will serve on the vaccination planning panel.

A handful of superintendents from around Georgia will develop recommended plans for vaccinating school employees against COVID-19, though it remains unclear when doses for that frontline group of workers will become available.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods has asked about a dozen superintendents from a representative sample of school districts to serve on a vaccination task force. The list, released Monday, includes two superintendents from the core metro Atlanta area and a few from the outer suburbs. Woods hopes to expedite a rollout of the vaccine once the state advances to the next vaccination phase, which includes teachers.

In Georgia as in many states, teachers have been designated as members of the second wave of inoculations, behind health care workers, first responders, those 65 and older and nursing home workers.

Many educators are working in-person with students. Some have become infected with COVID-19 or had to quarantine after being exposed to it, forcing some districts, including Cherokee and Cobb counties, to temporarily close their campuses. Several have died, including two educators in Cobb County last week.

Some districts, including Atlanta and Fulton County public schools, have vaccinated their eligible teachers and staff, but only a fraction of teachers are old enough to qualify.

Many of the superintendents “have great plans ready to go as soon as the vaccine is available,” said Matt Cardoza, an administrator with the Georgia Department of Education, which is led by Woods. The idea is to critique and improve those plans so they can serve as models for the rest of Georgia’s 180 school districts, he said.

The task force represents a cross-section of districts — large and small, urban and rural and distributed around the state. The list of 13 superintendents includes Lisa Herring from Atlanta Public Schools, Grant Rivera from Marietta, Brian Hightower of Cherokee County, Mary Elizabeth Davis of Henry County and Trent North of Douglas County.

Many of Georgia’s 180 school systems are developing their own approaches from the ground up and could benefit from state-recommended templates they merely need to tweak, said Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, the superintendent of the Early County School System in southwest Georgia and one of the superintendents who will serve on the panel.

“I do think it’s a good idea,” said Ragan-Martin, the president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association. “Everybody’s doing something different. At least this gives us a starting point.”

Teacher advocates were encouraged by the development, as pressure builds within their ranks to begin vaccinations.

“We need to be ready to go,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, an official with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said teachers are anxious. “We are obviously concerned about the supply of the vaccines and the fact that the timeline seems to be pushed out for when educators will be able to receive the vaccine,” she said.

The following superintendents have been invited to participate in the working group:

  • Dr. Scarlett Copeland, Appling County Schools
  • Dr. Lisa Herring, Atlanta Public Schools
  • Dr. Noris Price, Baldwin County Schools
  • Dr. Curtis Jones, Bibb County Schools
  • Dr. Michele Taylor, Calhoun City Schools
  • Dr. Kristie Brooks, Chattahoochee County Schools
  • Dr. Brian Hightower, Cherokee County Schools
  • Mr. Kenneth Dyer, Dougherty County Schools
  • Mr. Trent North, Douglas County Schools
  • Dr. Bronwyn Ragan-Martin, Early County Schools
  • Dr. Mary Elizabeth Davis, Henry County Schools
  • Dr. Rob Brown, Lumpkin County Schools
  • Dr. Grant Rivera, Marietta City Schools

Source: Georgia Department of Education

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