region 14

Investigation Launched Into Region 14 Superintendent's Role in Controversial Vaccine Clinic

Region 14 school staff and parents are angry about procedural changes at a vaccination clinic they expected to prioritize teachers but did not.

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People in Bethlehem and Woodbury are angry that a vaccination clinic, which they believed was supposed to prioritize teachers, may have allowed others to be vaccinated first. And now, the superintendent of Region 14 schools is being asked for his resignation.

Dr. Joe Olzacki is being investigated for his role in supposedly allowing administrators, central office employees, Board of Education members and their spouses to be vaccinated before teachers at the clinic last month. Limited doses meant some teachers did not get vaccinated.

During a special Board of Education meeting Thursday, it was voted upon and agreed that a private third party investigation would be done to look into the accusations. It was also motioned to form an Adhoc committee to review COVID protocols and concerns.

Responding, Region 14 school staff voted 186 to 6, showing no-confidence in Olzacki and asking for his resignation.

“We feel strongly something immoral was done and we don’t know if any kind of legal action is going to be taken but that’s where things are possibly headed,” said Nonnewaug Teacher’s Association President Chris York.

With the state currently under phase 1b of coronavirus vaccination, people 75 and over as well as first responders are eligible for the vaccine. With this in mind, it raises the question as to how Region 14 could have a vaccine clinic set up in the first place.

A spokesperson with the Department of Public Health offered this explanation of how it could have happened:

"There were a few days right at the beginning where people who were not 75+ were able to make appointments and some vaccinators set up clinics for teachers and others. The state told these clinics and individuals that if they had things scheduled up until Thursday the 21st, they could keep them, but anything after that would need to be canceled and slots filled with individuals 75+," spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Region 14's vaccination clinic was scheduled for Jan. 20.

Olzacki provided a quick statement over the phone Friday night explaining Region 14 has a COVID Coordinator.

“He did his due diligence to attempt to do equal and proportionate vaccines as possible. The superintendent does not get involved with lists or vaccines,” said Olzacki.

Olzacki released a previous statement Friday afternoon:

“I have worked tirelessly and creatively, throughout an unmatched pandemic, to support our students and staff to allow learning to continue. I will continue to do my very best every day to serve the towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem by providing what our students and staff require in order to stay safe and stay in school.”

Meanwhile, parents like Amy Davis want teachers to know they are not forgotten.

“They need every support that they can get and they need to know that they are being put first,” she said.

During the phone conversation with Olzacki Friday, he declined to answer if he intended to resign and simply said he stands by his statement.

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