Covid changed parents’ view of schools — and ignited the education culture wars

Hannah Natanson

And Leah McCullough, 38, who has one child in the Mentor district and home-schools her other three, dates her distrust of public education to the era of Zoom school, when she said she saw lessons she deemed outlandish.

“I started noticing, they would break off into these meetings and it was, like, [a video of] dancing Muslims under a rainbow,” McCullough said. “And I’m like: ‘Oh what? What is this?’ And there was a lot of talking about color.”

(Asked about Popelas’s and McCullough’s stories, Mentor schools spokeswoman Kristen Estes said she could locate no evidence of either the assignment or the video.)

A few weeks after Concerned Taxpayers debuted, a coalition of about a dozen mothers and grandmothers began attending board meetings to speak after, and against, its members. At the start of this school year, Melanie Majikas, 51, founded Support Education to counter what she called the anger and misinformation emanating from Concerned Taxpayers. In weeks, nearly 300 parents joined up.

“I wanted to show the teachers that someone supported what they were doing,” said Lauren Marchaza, 40. “Particularly after my daughter’s kindergarten teacher went above and beyond during covid.”

Lynne Mazeika, 75, whose children and grandchildren graduated from the district and who has one grandchild still enrolled, said she “just couldn’t stand the negativity anymore.”