Superintendent: 70% of staff want COVID-19 vaccine

City Superintendent Jim Cunningham and members of the Fort Payne City Board of Education took a moment during Thursday’s meeting to reflect on how the schools have handled the ongoing pandemic and talk about a timeline for vaccinating teachers.

“At the end of the first term, near Christmas, it got a bit tight in terms of sickness. Our employees have proven they’re essential. Our attendance for students is fantastic and people are healthy right now,” Cunningham said, knocking on the conference room table. “Everyone is to be commended, including the students themselves. They’ve been phenomenal. We’ve all had our challenges and scars from it.”

Cunningham said 70% of surveyed staff want the vaccine.

“So many agencies are ready to do this for us, but we don’t have enough of the vaccine,” he said. “It’s not our local folks, so don’t get upset at them. The hospital, the health department, Emergency Management… they’re all ready to move. They’re just waiting.”

Presently, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is prioritizing healthcare workers and nursing home residents. As of Friday, ADPH reports 764,125 doses have been allotted by the federal government to Alabama and 302,269 doses have been administered. Much of it is not yet “on the ground” as Pfizer and Modern manufacture more doses.

“I’d like to thank the faculty, administration, CNP workers, everybody, for the job they’ve done during this difficult year,” Board President Jimmy Durham said. “To see what all has been accomplished and how ready Fort Payne was to begin with without having to worry how to pull things together… and to see what other school systems are going through. I was listening to the news today where people in other places are mad at their school boards and ready to fire their superintendents because their kids are not getting an education. Everybody in the system and parents getting their children to school have all done a great job and we appreciate it. We probably have the smoothest-run school system with COVID that I’ve heard talked about.”

Durham said other school leaders across the state have told him how much they envied Fort Payne’s Class of 2020 getting to hold graduation ceremonies. “Their graduates came in, individually, got a picture made, but they didn’t have a ceremony. It’s so important for seniors to go through the whole process that we all went through. I’m proud to tell them we were able to have ours because we’ve got a good superintendent.”

Board member Neal Baine credited Cunningham, the Central Office staff and school employees for their performance under tough circumstances, saying, “When you hear the news of what’s going on in other places, we’ve got something to be proud of. I appreciate all of the work that’s gone into making it happen.”

Board member Carolyn Martin added, “There had to be a vision for how we were going to start this school year. We were scared and unsure of what we needed to do. I think our community has benefited economically in every way possible because our schools have been in session. I appreciate that decision to try it for as long as we can. We’ve come a long way.”

Board member Sharon Jones said she was glad to see Fort Payne High School Principal Brian Jett go on the loudspeaker and announce at a basketball game that he would cancel it unless everyone kept a mask on. “I was very happy to hear that,” she said.

In other business, the board:

• approved an update to the Semester Examination Policy in the Fort Payne High School handbook that will incentivize students to take the ACT more than once, which has been shown to increase their average composite score, which factors into the system’s own yearly progress report card.

• approved a month-by-month extension of the contract with Ra-LIN, the company managing construction of Little Ridge Intermediate School.

The board toured the new school, which is nearing completion, and they are planning another visit to check on progress before their next meeting on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

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