By Sheri Mitchell
If you were attending or listening to the school board meeting last Thursday, April 15, you may have heard the fireworks going on in the background. Chairman Everton Blair had to stop the meeting so that people could be removed from the room. These meetings have been heated with disruptions as of late due to cancel culture. A motion has been on the agenda for two months to limit our voices, but it has been tabled due to public outcry. People are being turned away from speaking. You only have to watch the meeting on their webpage to see that the proof is in the pudding.
Sen. Nikki Merritt, a Democrat from District 9, spoke at the April meeting. She said, “Gwinnett is the fourth most diverse county in the nation and the first most diverse county in Georgia. We want to make sure our diversity is represented.” The white population in Gwinnett is 20 percent, and it is typical in many of the speeches for racism and white supremacy to be highlighted. She thanked Mr. Wilbanks for his service, which didn’t go over well with the crowd since the taxpayers have to pay him over half a million dollars courtesy of the Democrats on the board who just axed this very capable man. As she is telling us that we need to work together, she is seen physically turning around while the crowd is making noise. “If there is a problem, come to your board with ideas and solutions as well as complaints and criticisms.”
I don’t think she understood why people were mad. You see, just two short months ago, Republican Congressman Clint Dixon from District 45 came to speak during the public comments section just as Nikki Merrit did. Chairman Blair promptly cut him off mid-sentence at the two-minute mark. He did not let him continue. He let Democrat Sen. Merritt continue for 4 minutes and 23 seconds. Her speech was good, but for a board that preaches equality and equity, the crowd lost it. She knew she had two minutes and even mentioned that she was aware of the time. Looking back, Chairman Blair could have put her in earlier to speak during the business portion of the meeting, and she could have spoken for as long as she wanted. The whole situation was mishandled on Chairman Blair’s part, and the crowd let him know it.
In the same meeting, Chairman Blair would not give extra time to Rick Donahue, who was clearly disabled and walking with a walker. He asked for some wriggle room at the beginning because his lungs give out; you could hear him wheezing into the microphone. According to Mr. Donahue, he is the hardest working counselor at GCPS and doesn’t let his disabilities get in the way of doing his job. He thanked GCPS for supporting him while he worked remotely and for supporting his transition back to the classroom. When he spoke, he also spoke in support of Mr. Wilbanks. Chairman Blair cut him off at the two-minute mark and told him that his time was up, but Mr. Donahue respectfully spoke over the chairman and finished what he had to say.
This is cancel culture at its best. Mr. Donahue had a positive speech, but because he did not talk about what was convenient for the board to hear, he was not offered the same favoritism as Democrat Sen. Merritt. I guess the moral of the story is that if you want your voice to be heard, align with the chairman’s beliefs and his future plans for Gwinnett County — only then will you not be canceled. If not, you will get two minutes every few months and they will hear from you as little as possible.
These board members were elected to represent the entire community, Democrat and Republican, but are managing to divide the community by shamefully bringing politics into the board room. This, of course, is unacceptable, but it is the precedent that the chairman and the two new Gwinnett County School Board members have been dangerously setting.
Sheri Mitchell is the mother of two students attending Gwinnett County Public Schools, Founder of Concerned Parents of Gwinnett County and FreedomWorks Building Education for Education BEST mom.