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Extraordinary Employees

  • Across the nation, urban school district employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the coronavirus pandemic, from passing out meals, to distributing laptops, to conducting lessons online and making house calls. This column will spotlight those employees who are working every day to make a difference in the lives of the nation’s 7.8 million urban schoolchildren.

    Alma Whittmore, Charleston County School District

    Alma Whittmore, nutrition services manager at Chicora Elementary School, said it bought her joy to see the children and their families as they came by campus to pick up their meals for the week after the school closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alma Whittmore, Charleston County School District

    “The babies wanted to get out of their cars and give me a hug when they drove through,” said Whittmore. “The moms were so grateful and thanked us profusely.”

    Even with school out for the summer, Whittmore and her co-workers continue to hustle everyday, providing meals for her ‘kids’. At her school alone, there are three buses that are now delivering meals to various neighborhoods in the area.

    “If someone calls for a meal drop off because they have no car, we tell the bus drivers to make a special trip,” said Whittmore. “The number of meals we are preparing continues to grow because we are now going to the children who don’t have access. We are feeding more students than the ones who actually attend Chicora.”

    Adriann Johnson-Cofield, Buffalo Public Schools

    Adriann Johnson-Cofield, Buffalo Public Schools When COVID-19 closed schools in Buffalo, Adriann Johnson-Cofield, the first-year principal of East Community High School, adopted a “whatever it takes” approach and led her team into overdrive to help students, especially seniors. A Facebook page was created, staff maintained regular and ongoing video and phone conferences with students, a “remind” app was developed to stay in contact with seniors without Facebook, peer-to-peer contacts were deployed so that on-track seniors could support and motivate struggling seniors, and for those that missed their pick-up window, staff delivered electronic devices to senior’s homes.

    In addition, seniors had an assigned Student Support Team member, and the school used a tracking tool to highlight priority credits for all seniors. Also, more than 30 teachers and staff members went to the homes of potential graduates to deliver “East Community High School Senior” lawn signs, and the faculty made a video for all students to show support. 

    Michelle Miles, Indianapolis Public Schools

    Michelle Miles has driven a bus for Indianapolis Public Schools for 24 years. During the school closures, she is one of several bus drivers who volunteered to transport food boxes for a community food distribution and partnership with a local food bank. District bus drivers transported food to more than 20 schools and community locations throughout the district on Mondays and Fridays where more than 7,000 families were served weekly. Michelle said, “I’m just grateful to be a part of this, this whole operation right now because I feel like it was something that needed to be done in every community because people don’t always come out when they need help.”