Faye Ellis arrives at Bulloch Academy shortly after 7 a.m., planning lunch for more than 350 students. When most of the children go home at 3 p.m., she will stay until after 6 p.m. to take care of about 30 of the youngest.
Ellis has doubled as BA’s food service manager and after-school care director for 16 years, since the autumn of 1995. Her employment there goes back eight years further, to 1987, when she started as a pre-kindergarten teacher and already provided after-school care.
The long days bring no complaints from a woman who counts her co-workers as part of an extended family.
“I had nieces and nephews who started to school here when this school opened, and I remember bringing them to school and picking them up before my children came along,” Ellis said. “There just happened to be some job opportunities here and I took them and I’ve been here ever since. But I guess it’s just like Julia P. or Southeast Bulloch; at Bulloch Academy, we’re just one big family.”
Her sons Jason and Jamey graduated from BA in 1992 and 1995, respectively. She now has five grandchildren, including Cierra, Dylan, Regan, Brannen and Will. Various grandkids are enrolled at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School and Southeast Bulloch, in addition to Bulloch Academy.
But she has another close relative at BA. Her twin sister Kay Deal, a Pre-K paraprofessional, has also worked at the academy since 1987. They don’t look much alike, despite being told early on that they were “identical” twins.
The family feeling that Ellis brings to work extends to a spirit of teamwork in the lunchroom. In addition to ordering supplies and writing menus, she is the lead cook.
“I have a team that works with me that I couldn’t do without,” she said. “We all have our job descriptions and if we see someone that needs help on their job we just blend it together and make it work.”
Her team includes Dean Hendrix, Sarah Rogers, Mary Renew, Freddie Wilkerson and John Latimore.
They provide a hot lunch or sandwich choice for the elementary grades and a sandwich bar, salad bar and hot lunch for the middle and upper school. They also prepare food for field trips, including many in May, and for special events throughout the year. Meanwhile, the cafeteria maintains a spotless health inspection grade of 99.
The after-school program serves students from Pre-K through fifth grade. Three Georgia Southern University students assist Ellis. They provide homework assistance, games, and outdoor activities when weather permits.
Interim Head of School Leisa Houghton notices how Ellis makes special efforts when a child forgets a lunch from home, and how that 6 p.m. after-school closing time care can occasionally stretch to 7 p.m. for her.
“She’s a very dedicated employee,” Houghton said. “It has to be a dire need for her to take off, and she will even take days off but still be here. She will pop in to make sure everything is going right and that the substitute in the cafeteria is doing what they need or that the day care is going fine.”