Three administrators at the West Oak Lane Charter School have been recognized for their support of the National Guard.
Chief Executive Officer Dr. Debbera Peoples-Lee, Chief Academic Officer Sheila Royal-Moses, and Principal Charletta Ziegler all received the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) organization.
The organization is based in Alexandria, Va. and provides support to Guard members and their families nationwide and offers a series of awards to entities that employ and support
Award winners are nominated by employees who are members of the Guard or the spouses of those employees.
The award is given employers who have demonstrated support of their employees who are Guard members and their families.
The trio was nominated by Krystle Johnson, the school’s dean of students for grades K-2 who is herself is a member of the Air Force National Guard.
A senior airman in the Guard, Johnson’s responsibilities involve logistical support. She’s helped get troops to Puerto Rico and the Bahamas for hurricane relief and to Utah to fight wildfires. She was also sent to Lithuania on one occasion to assist with the construction of a hospital. Closer to home, the Guard helped coordinate security during Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia four years ago.
Johnson’s deployments have forced her to spend time away from home and, on occasion, away from her job. She says on those occasions she and her 10-year old daughter have received unconditional support from her employer.
“It’s overwhelming how much they’ve been supportive,” Johnson said. “My co-workers here chip in wherever they need to kind of fill in the gaps while I’m away. Ms. Moses approves all my (requests for time off). Ms. Ziegler is a great principal and Dr. Lee always checks on me and makes sure I’m feeling okay.”
Johnson says the school staff makes sure to provide support when she returns from a deployment, which she describes as a “Big adjustment.”
“Especially with what you see when you’re out there,” she said. “And the different language, the acronyms. How we address our commanders and just going up the chain of command.
My focus is very different from when I’m at work to when I’m on base.”
Lee noted that supporting Johnson’s commitment to the Guard is an important commitment for the school. “It is my philosophy of you treat people well and you are empathetic to what is going on in their personal lives, then it will reflect what happens in their professional lives,” she said. “The work (Johnson) does is so valuable to our country … And she needs to know she has a supportive employer when she comes back from the deployments that are ready to embrace her right back into her role here.”
Editor's Note: Freelance Reporter Rick Woelfel is a member of West Oak Lane Charter School's advisory council.