OPINION: What is wrong with leadership of Cobb schools?

Teacher Elizabeth Alentyeu and her husband, Raul Candia, are among hundreds of Cobb County teachers and staff who held a protest in the parking lot during the school board meeting at the Cobb County School District's offices on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Cobb teachers are pressing the district for improved COVID-19 response.  Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com
Teacher Elizabeth Alentyeu and her husband, Raul Candia, are among hundreds of Cobb County teachers and staff who held a protest in the parking lot during the school board meeting at the Cobb County School District's offices on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Cobb teachers are pressing the district for improved COVID-19 response. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Two board members and superintendent fail to don masks to honor teacher who died of COVID-19

What is wrong with Cobb County school leadership?

National outrage is erupting over the refusal of the superintendent and two school board members to don masks during a moment of silence Thursday for Hendricks Elementary art teacher Patrick Key, who died of COVID-19 on Christmas.

ExploreRead AJC story on growing concerns among Cobb teachers

Not only did the trio ignore a plea from Cobb school counselor Jennifer Susko at the meeting to put on masks in honor of Key, whose obituary requested that, in lieu of flowers, people buy and wear masks, the leaders did so on a day when two other Cobb County School District employees died of the virus.

(You can read an earlier piece I did on Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s troubling email announcing Key’s death to staff on Christmas where he briefly mentions Key and then shifts to a pep rally tone about the district’s mission.)

Kemp Elementary school first-grade teacher Dana Johnson died Thursday morning, six weeks after she was admitted to the hospital. Cynthia Lindsey, a paraprofessional at Sedalia Park Elementary School, died Thursday after she was hospitalized earlier this month with COVID-19.

Superintendent Ragsdale and school members David Chastain and David Banks have consistently not worn masks during meetings, despite the district mandating them for everyone else.

Susko’s request to the board Thursday evening was simple: “During the silence, I would like to ask all members of the board and the superintendent put on your masks as a tribute to this teacher who did everything you asked of him, even teaching through a pandemic.”

Yet, Ragsdale, Chastain and Banks sat there unmoving and unresponsive, prompting Susko to say: “I would like the record to reflect that some of you did not wear a mask, the final request of a Cobb teacher who died. Your actions in these two minutes have spoken louder than words. We see where your priorities are. Please know that many of us reject your false gratitude for staff since we seem disposable to many of you.”

I am shocked at these seemingly callous actions by Cobb leadership, but I will give the floor to Laura Callard, who shared a note she sent to leaders about how their communications to parents ignore what teachers are facing.

Saying that someone must advocate for Cobb teachers, Callard told district leaders:

SHAME ON YOU! How do you send out these weekly, self-promoting marketing emails without addressing the deaths of Patrick Keys, Dana Johnson, and Cynthia Lindsey? This is APPALLING, DISRESPECTFUL, SAD and proves that you have no respect, care or consideration for your teachers and staff.

Do you think by not addressing these lives, they didn’t exist or matter? They MATTER and certainly had a much greater impact on our children’s lives than you. They CARED.

No one cares about your selective, non-relevant “news” as there is no human element to it. I DO NOT CARE about a new Osborne football coach in today’s environment. You are telling me that a new football coach is more important and “newsworthy” than teachers who have lost their lives, doing the job they love and putting themselves at the frontline?

Again, shame on you and get a grip on reality and what is important.

To the CCSD school board members who refuse to wear masks... “You can’t fix stupid.” That is all I have to say about that. You are an embarrassment to yourselves and all of us. Shame. On. You. We laugh at you as we watch you online. (Oh, and if you are going to represent us, please try to at least respect us enough to stay awake during school board meetings. Drink a Diet Coke, or something... And most of all, stay at least six feet AWAY from all of us.)

I cannot believe it has come to this. Avoiding reality and facts has lost you what little credibility you had. You no longer have ANY credibility or respect. We are not little. We are not stupid. We are not irrelevant.

I am thankful for the school board members who fight to do what is right. You know who you are. Mr. Ragsdale, please exhibit some leadership. It is long overdue.

Laura Callard

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