Kee’s obituary mentions his appreciation for wearing masks: “Patrick feels passionate about wearing masks during a pandemic,” Susco read during a public comment at the meeting on Thursday.
Susko then asked for a minute’s silence to honor Kee and the board members to put on their masks “in honor of this teacher who did everything you asked of him, even teaching through a pandemic.”
Over the next 13 seconds, some members looked down and some moved to their seats. Everyone was quiet. Most were wearing masks, but at least two men, including Chief Chris Ragsdale, who were not wearing face masks, were left without masks.
“I would like the recording to reflect that some of you did not wear a mask,” Susco said after a long pause, “the last request of Cobb’s teacher, who died. Your actions during those two minutes spoke louder than words. “
For Kee’s family, inaction became indifference to the loss of the community, prompting them to speak out against the mute reaction on board.
Kee’s widow, Priscilla, posted a video of the meeting on her Facebook page, writing: “I have a lot of feelings, but there are no socially appropriate words to describe them.”
Speaking on behalf of his aunt, Heather Welch called the moment “hurtful.”
Tensions between teachers in Cobb County and the school district administration have boiled over since the recent deaths of three teachers from the virus, which has killed more than 416,000 people in the United States.
Cobb County, one of Georgia’s most populous counties, reported 58,973 cases of the coronavirus, the third-largest in the state, and has had an increase in infections since December. Nearly eight out of 100 people have tested positive in the county. , twice that number less than two months ago.
The increase in cases forced the school district to switch to distance learning at the end of the autumn semester, but after the winter break, private lessons were resumed, causing frustration among teachers concerned about their health.
More than 530 K-12 teachers died from covid-19 last year, according to data collected by the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions, and shared with The Washington Post.
After Kee’s death, Dana Johnson, a Kemp elementary school teacher, and Cynthia Lindsey, a paraprofessional at Sedalia Park Elementary School, also lost their lives to the disease caused by the virus. It is not known how the teachers became infected.
While the county and state do not have a mandate for masks, the school district requires all employees, students, and visitors to wear masks in school buildings where social distancing is not possible.
Feeling that school administrators were more concerned about the reopening than the deceased, more than 100 educators attended the board meeting in protest, WSB-TV2 reported.
Susko and others complained that the area had done little to honor Kee, Johnson and Lindsay.
Susko was emotional when he spoke of the commander’s recent email, remembering the Key, which included two sentences about the teacher and focused on the school district’s mission statement.
“We have already adapted our schools and classrooms significantly and will continue to take all possible steps to keep our corridors safe, classrooms healthy and schools open both remotely and face to face,” Ragsdale wrote. email received from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What won’t change and what can’t change is our commitment to every student at Cobb as One Team, with One Goal.”
“Many of us will not forget that email that was disrespectful to Mr. Kee and made us feel much worse,” Susco told Ragsdale.
In an interview Sunday, Susko said she had written two drafts of what she would say after the moment of silence if the unmasked members had put on or not put up. But she said she knew which version to pronounce.
“I had told people before that I didn’t expect them to,” she said. “I hoped they would do it because it was death. This is a big deal. “
Ragsdale and board member David Banks, identified by WSB-TV2 as masked during the meeting, did not respond to requests for comment from The Post, but a school district official said in a statement that the board adheres to a camouflage policy that allows people remove their masks if they are physically spaced.
“As you can clearly see, in the case of our board meetings, the room has been deliberately spaced apart to allow for social distancing,” spokeswoman Nan Kiel wrote.
“Cobb County Council and the hearts of the county are directed to the Johnson, Key and Lindsay families. Cynthia, Dana and Patrick were incredibly valuable members of our team, “Keel wrote. “The outpouring of support for their families shows how much they were loved and how they had a positive impact on every student, teacher and parent they interacted with.”
But Kee’s family is outraged by the actions of the administrators or their absence during the meeting.
“All it had to be was a few seconds of demonstration of kindness and empathy,” Welch said in an interview, “and they couldn’t even do it.”
Welch said her uncle, a talented artist and kindergarten teacher, has not only a seemingly unlimited amount of patience, but also an eye for beauty.
When the pandemic broke out, Kee and Welch often called each other to register, discussing their concerns about people who seemed concerned about the virus, and discussing the daily problems with the pandemic, such as eczema from disinfectants and hand masks.
“He took it very seriously,” she said, adding that Ki complained when she saw people without masks in the grocery store.
“It was something in the foreground of both of our minds, and we kept calling and making sure we were both fine and still taking the necessary precautions,” she said.
Her uncle did not have any underlying conditions that put him at risk of serious complications, Welch said.
Patrick and Priscilla tested positive in early November, and 10 days later his oxygen level dropped to the appropriate level, so he was hospitalized, Welch said.
Kee could no longer talk to his niece on the phone: he had a tracheotomy, leaving him only able to signal “I love you” via his wife’s FaceTime. However, the family was hopeful as they discussed moving him to a long-term care center to be transferred from the ventilator.
But when they woke up at Christmas, the hospital told his wife to come because Kee’s condition had worsened. He died on his favorite holiday, Welch said.
His death is widely felt, from fellow teachers to Welch’s grown-ups in elementary school who remember Kee. A GoFundMe page created by a friend has raised nearly $ 34,000 since Saturday.
“The most important thing for us was that his legacy and memory focused on his kindness and gifting heart,” Welch said. “That’s why I ask people to do the things that have been asked forever: Wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance.