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GCPS: 61% of educators who work in schools interested in COVID vaccine opportunity

If Gwinnett County Public Schools offered an opportunity for its roughly 25,000 employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine from public health officials, more than 60% of the educators who are in schools and deal directly with students said they would take advantage of it, according to a district survey.

The school system began making plans to survey its employees about their interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine shortly after it started to be shipped to Georgia in December. Because of the phased roll out of the vaccine, educators who are under 65 cannot get vaccinated until Georgia reaches phase 1B of the rollout.

The state, which has had trouble having enough vaccine doses available to meet the high demand in metro Atlanta, is still in phase 1A at this time.

“This data has been updated to reflect any employee who has since (the initial survey data was collected) received a vaccination (65-plus in age) or any other employee who has since then indicated they no longer have a need for the vaccination through this opportunity,” GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

The results showed 61% of teachers, media specialists, counselors and local school technology coordinators in the district said they would be interested in getting vaccinated through an opportunity coordinated by the school system and the health department.

The percentage of people interested in getting vaccinated drops, however, when it is broadened to include other employees who may have less contact with students.

In all, Roach said 52% of the district’s employees said they would take advantage of an opportunity to get vaccinated by the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments if it was available. This group includes full-time and part-time employees, as well as people in the district’s substitute teacher pool.

As of Monday, GCPS reported a total of 882 active COVID-19 cases in the county’s schools, including 121 positive cases, 104 suspected cases and 657 close contacts. There were a total of 15 active cases at the district’s office, including five positive cases, one suspected case and nine close contacts.

The numbers include 236 new cases reported between Friday and Monday. These numbers include 42 staff members and 194 students.

Gwinnett celebrates John Lewis Day, highlights late congressman's life and legacy

As she reflected on U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ life, the congressman’s longtime aide, Tuere Butler, recalled an occasion where he used his words to diffuse a heated situation involving a man who had called Lewis’ office.

The man, who was not from Georgia, was angry about a vote Lewis had taken on an issue in the U.S. House of Representatives. He called the congressman’s office, yelled at Lewis’ staff and they took down his phone number.

The staffers were unsure if Lewis would want to talk to the man after he yelled at the staff over the phone.

“We told the congressman ‘This is what happened,’ and the congressman said, ‘Well, let’s call him back,’ “ Butler said. “And, so he got on the phone with some of the staff members in his office and put the gentleman on speaker phone, and the way that he spoke with this gentleman who was very irate and disappointed and frustrated.

“By the end of that conversation, it was like two old friends were talking.”

Sunday would have been Lewis’ 81st birthday, and Gwinnett officials commemorated the occasion with a two-and-half hour event at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center called “The Impact of John Lewis” on Monday morning. The event was held live, with only abut 43 people in attendance because of COVID-19 restrictions, and was broadcast live on the county’s Facebook page.

After Lewis died last year, the county commission took steps last year to declare his birthday as John Lewis Day in Gwinnett.

“We wanted to make sure we showed the impact of everything he’s done because it goes past generations,” Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque said after the event ended. “It’s multigenerational.”

There were video tributes to Lewis, musical and spoken word poetry presentations and the presentation of a proclamation honoring Lewis’ life, which county commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson presented to Butler.

His participation in the Freedom Rides, the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., and the March on Washington, D.C., were among the many accomplishments in his life that were recalled by participants.

Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments Director Dr. Audrey Arona evoked Lewis’ memory as she talked to attendees about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to encourage people to get people to get vaccinated against the disease.

“I know that Congressman John Lewis would have stepped up to be an advocate for this vaccine, and he would have worked to ensure that everyone has equal access to this vaccine,” Arona said.

Fosque also led two panel discussions on Lewis’ impact at the event. The first featured Butler, where she recounted the story about Lewis and the phone call, as well as Hendrickson and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.

The second panel featured former state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, Berean Christian Church Pastor Kevin Lee and Farooq Mughal.

Both panels focused on Lewis’ legacy and the work still left to be done in the area of Civil Rights.

Bourdeaux said that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was uncertainty about what would be the result of the efforts made by the people fighting for equal rights.

“When you’re filled with passion to change something, there’s always going to be this uncertainty that is going to dog you throughout the process,” she said. “That is why it’s so impressive what he accomplished — his courage and persistence over time — and that is really what you have to bring to many of our problems.

“Every once in while, we have a public problem, and you go out there and it’s solved easily, but so many times you just have to persist over and over again.”

Hendrickson said there is still “good trouble,” as Lewis used to call it, to be done in some of the areas that the congressman was trying to address 60 years ago.

“It’s about continuing to fight for racial and social justice and (confronting) inequities that we continue to experience,” the chairwoman said. “While it’s not in your face, it manifests in so many different ways in our policies, in behaviors, in zoning laws and restrictive access and undue justice.

“You know, we have to speak out about those injustices and I think is what ‘good trouble’ is about. It’s about speaking out against injustices no matter what the cost is, and not being afraid to do so because, at the end of the day, it’s about ensuring freedom.”

Federal judge places U.S. Capitol riot participant from Buford on home detention

A Buford man accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has been placed on home detention by a federal judge.

Verden Andrew Nalley, 49, was arrested last week on charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, violent entry or disorderly conduct and entering a restricted building or grounds. He was released on $10,000 bond on Friday.

Nalley was indicted along with Americus-area attorney William McCall Calhoun Jr., who faces the same charges.

“On or about Jan. 6, 2021, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants, William McCall Calhoun Jr. and Verden Andrew Nalley, attempted to, and did, corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, and did conspire to do so; that is, Calhoun and Nalley forcibly entered and remained in the Capitol to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote,” the indictment against Calhoun and Nalley states.

The order federal Magistrate Judge Christopher Blye issued Friday to allow Nalley to leave jail stipulates he can only leave his residence for work; education; church services; medical, substance abuse of mental health treatment; attorney visits; court appearances; any court-ordered obligation; and activities that must be approved in advanced by the court’s pre-trail services office or supervising officer.

The order says his residence is an address that belongs to his girlfriend.

He must also be placed under GPS monitoring, surrender his passport, submit his weekly schedule to his probation officer by no later than the Friday of the preceding week and have no contact with Calhoun.

The court said Nalley is allowed to travel to Washington D.C. for court appearances and related activities. He is not allowed to drink “excessively” or use illegal narcotics or other controlled substances unless they are prescribed by a doctor, and must undergo testing for prohibited substances.

He is also not allowed to have a firearm or other type of weapon in his home, vehicle or place of employment.

Verden Nalley and William Calhoun federal indictment

Brookwood High School's Angelyne Collins named GCPS Media Specialist of the Year

Brookwood High School Media Specialist Angelyne Collins leads the school’s media program, which was recognized by the state as the 2020 Exemplary Library Media Program for High Schools.

Now it’s Collins’ turn for recognition as Gwinnett County Public Schools announced this week that she is the district’s 2021 Library Media Specialist of the Year.

The award honors a K-12 library media specialist whose program is exemplary in collaborative partnerships, development of research skills, incorporation of technology and the promotion of reading, GCPS officials said.

Collins will now compete for the Metro Area Library Media Specialist of the Year honor sponsored by the Georgia Library Media Association.

“Dr. Collins has a love for learning which is demonstrated through her authentic collaboration and excellent teaching,” Brookwood Principal Bo Ford said.

GCPS officials lauded Collins for her ability in “adapting the delivery of her resources and program to reach all students.” As an example, this year she pivoted to teaching and supporting her students in concurrent classroom settings of digital and in-person learners.

“Her commitment to literacy includes creating an inclusive collection, and hosting video book talks and virtual author visits,” GCPS officials said. “She has increased the number of audio and e-books in the school’s collection, offers curbside book pick-up for digital learners, and installed a Little Free Library Book exchange on campus.”

Collins also hosted a DIY Mask-arade Ball during lunch periods this past year, which allowed students to design and decorate their own custom face masks.

Price also said Collins’ use of platforms such as Canva and Adobe Spark to create flyers, Instagram posts and other graphics has increased communication efforts about the library media program.