I first met Kellie Bates in the fall of 2021 when she was leading the charge against the mask mandates and any type of COVID restrictions in the school. This was of course at the time when Dorchester County had some of the highest rates in the state, and South Carolina had some of the highest rates in the nation. It was during the peak of the Delta variant where countless people were dying.
In the midst of this, instead of having a nuanced discussion, Kellie and her group went ballistic against any COVID measures. Some were kicked out of the school board meetings, and the acted like their liberties were being assaulted. I remember having a discussion with her during this time. She was talking about it was against many people’s Christian faith to wear masks, and they had a big prayer gathering before the school board meeting to stop such an “assault.”
Of course, these are not the issues we are dealing with right now. However, that extremism paired with a lack of critical thought is exactly we need to avoid in our school system. DDII is certainly not perfect, but having worked in and seen other school districts, I will say that we are a step ahead. Unlike Charleston County where in some places you have Jim Crow level segregation and completely unequal schools, in DDII you have relatively high quality schools across the district. .
Teachers overall feel like it is a good place to work, and many will choose to work in DDII over the higher pay in counties like Charleston because of the strong dynamics that Joseph Pye built over decades. Some of those dynamics could change if unserious and extreme candidates like Kellie Bates, Erica Miller, Jimmy Tupper and Eric Unger are elected. The hysteria, conspiracy theories, and attacks on educators they will bring will be unprecedented and will eventually drive teachers away from the district. DD II could go from being one of the best districts in the area to a much different spot with an unserious school board who get their cues from extremism on social media rather than from a real understanding of the schools needs and hearing from educators themselves.
I would encourage you to go out and vote in the school board election. Specifically, I would encourage you to vote for the South Carolina Education Association approved candidates Gail Hughes, Justin Farnsworth (both current school board members), and Cynthia Powell. Our children’s education is way too precious to put in the hands of people who could tear a good school district apart.