During public comments at the beginning of a Cobb County Board of Education meeting Thursday night, Jennifer Susko had a request that brought the room to silence.
“I’m going to stop talking for a few seconds in honor of Mr. Key,” she said, referring to Patrick Key, the Cobb County teacher who died Christmas Day after battling COVID-19. “During the silence, I’d like to ask all members of the board and the superintendent to put on your mask as a tribute to this teacher who did everything you asked of him, even teaching through a pandemic.”
Several seconds passed. School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale did not put on a mask. Neither did the handful of board members who were not already wearing one.
“I’d like the record to reflect that some of you did not wear a mask, the final request of a Cobb teacher who died,” said Susko. “Your actions in these two minutes have spoken louder than words.”
Key’s widow Pricella posted a video clip of the moment of silence on her Facebook page, saying, “This happened tonight at the Cobb County Board of Education meeting. I have many feelings but no socially appropriate words to describe them.”
Hours earlier, two other Cobb County teachers lost their battle with the disease. Dana Johnson was a teacher at Kemp Elementary School, and Cynthia Lindsey was a paraprofessional at Sedalia Park Elementary School.
"She loved teaching, loved teaching," said Dana's cousin Bessie Seabrook. "Her students were everything to her."
A Thursday protest didn't stop the emotions many Cobb County educators and their families were feeling.
"I was so angry to know that not everyone put the mask on and it's people like that that have me so angry," Seabrook said. "COVID is REAL."
The Cobb County School Board released this statement about the recent deaths and mask controversy.
The Cobb County Board and District's hearts go out to the Johnson, Key, and Lindsey families. Cynthia, Dana, and Patrick were incredibly valuable members of our Team. The outpouring of support for their families, and voices of our teachers, show how much they were loved and how they positively impacted every student, teacher, and parent who they interacted with. We will continue to take every possible step to keep our hallways safe, our classrooms healthy, and our schools open both remotely and face-to-face. Our entire Team, including our Board, is following the District mask policy which can be found here Learning Everywhere (cobbk12.org)" which asks all staff or students to wear a mask at all times when social distancing is not possible. As you can clearly see, in the case of our Board meetings, the room has been intentionally spaced to allow for social distancing.