When the Covid-19 pandemic descended across the community in 2020, it set off a crisis that few had ever seen before. Everything was impacted, from family gatherings, to business operations, to church services. But perhaps no entity was so profoundly impacted, and so uniquely challenged, as public schools.

But for the Marion School District, there was a key factor providing much-needed guidance, comfort, information, and leadership. That factor was the district’s school health coordinator, Nurse Kelly Fogleman.

Over the past year, Fogleman has been a stalwart in the district’s response to the Covid pandemic. Whether it is conducting contact tracing, providing rapidly changing information, managing endless communications, or organizing ongoing testing and vaccinations, Fogleman has spent endless hours working to keep the students and staff of the Marion School District safe.

This summer, Fogleman was recognized for her efforts by being named the Arkansas School Nurse of the Year.

“I can’t imagine there being a more qualified person in this state to be named the Arkansas School Nurse of the Year,” said Dr. Glen Fenter, Marion superintendent. “This past year has been extraordinarily challenging, and it might get even more challenging in the months ahead. But I hope Marion families understand what a benefit it is to have someone of Nurse Fogleman’s caliber looking out for their children’s health. Through every twist and turn of the pandemic, Kelly has worked unceasingly to ensure we are taking every possible action to protect our students.”

The Arkansas School Nurse of the Year is presented annually to a school nurse who demonstrates excellence in school nursing practice. Nominees must be a registered professional nurse, have at least three years of experience as a school nurse, and be a member of the Arkansas School Nurse Association.

Writing in support of Fogleman’s nomination, fellow Marion School District nurse Jennifer Wallace said the following:

“From day one, it was easy to see that Kelly is fully committed to school nursing, is passionate about public health, and is a lifelong learner,” Wallace wrote. “I witnessed her day after day striving to do the right thing the right way for her students, teachers, and community. She worked tirelessly after hours, weekends, and even over breaks for what felt like a year that would never end. She lived and breathed sick student protocols, contact tracing, Covid spreadsheets, video watching, desk measuring, bus investigating, quarantining, parent notifications, and support. She daily managed endless emails, texts, calls, and voicemails all requiring timely replies, initiated distance-learning resources for students, facilitated appointments at our in-school clinic for testing, as well as maintained in-person, zoom, and phone communications with principles, our superintendent, state health officials and our nursing team.”

“Kelly also provided the best most accurate transparent Covid updates of any school in our area and replied to commentary to our community via Facebook,” Wallace continued. “She also organized and coordinated our school vaccine clinic, which was no small feat. Kelly went above and beyond every single day. She did it all while maintaining heroic professionalism in the face of incredibly difficult current events.”

A 1994 graduate of Marion High School, Fogleman has been a registered nurse for 24 years. She holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing and is a National Board Certified School Nurse. Before joining the Marion School District, she spent a decade as a neuro ICU nurse at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis. She became the campus nurse at Marion Junior High in 2009, later becoming the district school health coordinator in 2019.

“Being selected for this award is such an honor, especially right in the middle of a global pandemic,” Fogleman said. “There are so many wonderful school nurses here in our district and across the state, and I'm just in awe that I was chosen. This past school year was the most challenging and demanding year that I've had in my career. I witnessed so many people from every discipline of our district working together to keep our doors open last year to serve our students. I wouldn't have survived in my role without the help of my fellow nurses, teachers, coaches, paras, administrators, bus drivers, IT guys, human resources staff, cafeteria workers, custodians, local MD offices and clinics, our school-based health center, and so many more. I share this award with them and honor their hard work and sacrifices to have made it through. This is the best district to work for and I count it a blessing to be right where I am, and surrounded by the good folks here.”

For as valuable as Fogleman has been for the district over the past year, Fenter said she might prove to be even more valuable in the months ahead. The superintendent is quick to note that the pandemic is far from over, and with the Delta variant spreading rapidly and impacting school-age children with greater frequency, the challenges facing public schools are only getting more complex.

“The safety and wellness of our students and staff continue to be our top priority,” Fenter said. “We are committed to doing everything allowable under the law to make sure our students are protected. That’s why I am so grateful that Kelly is part of our team. She is truly trusted, beloved, and admired. Her work is what allows us to provide the safest environment and best information we can for our families and staff.”