By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published January 23, 2020 | En Español
ATLANTA—With more than 20 years of experience working in schools, Jenni Ellis understands the importance of keeping young people safe.
“As a Catholic school administrator, your number one priority is the safety and security of children,” she said.
Ellis is the new director of the Safe Environment Office for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Being able to support more organizations within the archdiocese as opposed to just one school is exciting, she said.
The Safe Environment office ensures the safety and security of children, young people and vulnerable adults throughout the Atlanta Archdiocese. This includes criminal background checks for people working with minors, leading VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children training and the internal investigation process relating to child abuse allegations involving church personnel.
The office is responsible for overseeing archdiocesan compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Established in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the charter is a set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
With the Victim Assistance program, Safe Environment is part of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, which works to empower parishes, families and individuals to create and maintain safe environments for the young and vulnerable.
Continuing education for volunteers, parents, employees, teachers and faith leaders is a top priority in the new role, said Ellis.
In addition, she wants to uphold the important work of her predecessor, Perla Freed, who recently accepted a position as executive director of the YMCA Guardians for Child Protection.
Ellis received her bachelor’s degree in middle grade education from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in library media technology from Georgia State University. She helped to open Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell in 2000, where she served as head librarian and assisted with various student activities. In 2004, she began working at Marist School in Atlanta, where she was the assistant principal for eight of the 11 years on campus.
In 2015, Ellis was head of school at Sophia Academy, where she served for two years until its merger with Notre Dame Academy. Before returning to Atlanta for the Safe Environment position, she worked in Catholic schools for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.
Along with her 10-year-old son, Tilden, Ellis is happy to return to her native Georgia and spend more time with family.
“It’s always good to be home,” she said.