Letter to the Editor

Local educators speak out on being denied vaccine

Monday, February 15, 2021

Dear Gov. Holcomb and Dr. Box:

You made a promise. You assured Hoosier teachers and education professionals that we would be in the second grouping of essential workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

With little warning, the state has reneged on this promise in favor of an age-based distribution system. Once again, Hoosier educators feel slighted. Once again, the process is short-sighted.

This new policy contradicts the recommendations issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that educators be prioritized alongside the 65-75 age group. President Biden and the first lady, herself an educator, have consistently called for teachers to be vaccinated so more schools can reopen safely.

In fact, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the only Midwestern states that have failed to prioritize teachers.

Educators are essential workers. We dedicate ourselves every day to serve young Hoosier citizens who are tomorrow’s future. Due to the pandemic, every teacher we know carries an extra workload this year. For those who teach on-site, this accompanies the daily stress of wondering whether we will contract COVID-19 and/or bring it home.

Many of us are immunocompromised and/or have immunocompromised family members. We risk our lives as we struggle to separate desks in socially distanced classrooms while enforcing sanitation and mask wearing protocols. It is not uncommon for high school teachers to interact with well over 100 students each day.

Consequently, COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of Hoosier educators.

Behavioral specialist and pastor Jeff Crowe, who worked at Evansville’s Caze Elementary School, devoted his entire life to helping others. He was 57 when he died.

Beloved art and music teacher Melinda Roellig of Clarksville was just 37.

Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation is mourning the loss of two educators, including Pam Podany, who served for eight years as a cook at Thorpe Creek Elementary School.

Bonnie McLeod, who worked at Yankeetown Elementary in Newburgh and made thousands of masks for others, also died.

Across the nation, even younger educators have sacrificed their lives. Teacher Demetria Bannister of South Carolina died at 28, while Ashlee DeMarinis, a teacher from Missouri, was just 34. Nacoma James, a middle school teacher and coach in Mississippi, was 42. Each left behind family and hundreds of students who loved them.

Of course, this doesn’t account for the legions of educators who are recovering from the disease. And we’re only beginning to see the fallout from the emotional toll COVID-19 has inflicted. Without short-term relief, an already critical teacher shortage will be nothing short of catastrophic as educators retire or resign in droves come May.

Now that we have the vaccine, you can do your part to reassure Hoosier educators that we are not an afterthought. We represent more than 565 staff and 6,500 students in our four school corporations alone.

Grant us the gift of peace of mind. Put those who work in our state’s schools next in line. Let us know that you have our back so we can get back to doing what we do best — serving the next generation of Hoosiers.

Besides, you promised.


Mark Wheeler and Doug Wokoun

1,221 students, 65 staff

Cloverdale Education Association co-presidents

Kristien Hamilton

1,758 students, 300 staff

Greencastle Classroom Teachers Association president

Chase Hiland

1289 students, 101 staff

North Putnam Teacher Association president

Jill McCammack

1,150 students, 70 staff

South Putnam Classroom Teachers Association president

Thomas Standers

1,131 students, 48 staff

Old National Trail Professional Association president