Fifteen staff members in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District have died from COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
Sonia Diaz, a spokesperson for several unions in the school district, confirmed the number of deaths to NBC 6. Miami-Dade County Public Schools resumed classes on Aug. 23, and it's unknown when the employees contracted COVID-19.
One of them was Abe Coleman, a teacher for more than 30 years.
"It’s a tremendous loss. The number of lives that he impacted are countless. So many young men had the benefit of him intervening in their lives and pointing them in the right direction," said Marcus Bright, with 5000 Role Models of Excellence.
In addition to teaching, Coleman was a mentor and Site Director for the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Program, overseeing the Holmes Elementary location. Coleman helped shape the lives of hundreds of young men over the years during his service for the organization that mentors young minority men in Miami Dade County.
"In particular, he was a bridge builder for the students there. He connected them with opportunity, with resources, with infrastructures of opportunity that fed into and contributed to their development," Bright said.
Coleman taught at Holmes Elementary School in Liberty City, which is located in Miami’s Liberty City area that is predominately Black with 42% of the population living below the poverty line, according to FIU Metropolitan Center.
"This is particularly important because Holmes Elementary is located right across the street from the Liberty Square Housing Project. His servicing boys that came from community, the entire Liberty City community who needed additional support, services and resources and he was a conduit for that," Bright said.
On Tuesday, Coleman lost his life to COVID-19 at the age of 55.
"I'm confident that his legacy will live on in the next site director and all of those educators that are a part of Holmes Elementary School and the Liberty City community," Bright said.
Congresswoman Fredricka Wilson, the founder of 5000 Role Models, released a statement saying, in part:
"Mr. Abe Coleman was a highly motivated, dedicated, and inspirational Site Director for the Holmes Elementary Role Models Chapter and never missed a day. The pandemic did not deter him.“
Abe Coleman leaves behind a wife, son and countless men he inspired.
Officials haven't released the identities of the other teachers or staff members, and a Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesperson said the district doesn't release the cause of death for employees or students.
"The loss of any of our employees is one that is always profoundly felt as every member of this organization is considered a part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools family," the district said in a statement. "We extend our hearts and prayers to the loved ones of those whose lives have recently been lost."
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.