With the School District of Pickens County school board, it seems the politics are too much most of the time for the tastes of many county residents, most split between good fiscal policy and the business of educating children. It would be foolish to believe that all the board’s decisions will be popular with everyone, but the divisiveness of the situation seems to have come to a head.
Some members of the board, Vice Chairman Alex Saitta for example, are extremely fiscally conservative, and as taxpayers it can be fully appreciated. But, for as fiscally conservative as Saitta is, is a school board the right political forum for it?
Sometimes, when it comes to education and children, fiscal responsibility has to take somewhat of a backseat, not to the degree there is complete mismanagement of funds, mind you, but a backseat to needs as they arise.
Fiscal responsibility is important, but when it comes to managing our children’s educations, is it the most important responsibility? No, the education to the highest quality in the safest, most conducive environments with a curriculum designed to prepare them for the world is the most important.
In the last month there have been three events that continue to perpetuate the issues where the actions of the school board are concerned. One is the decision to sell Old Gettys Middle in a specially called meeting. Two is a letter penned to Gov. Nikki Haley from a concerned parent. And three is a petition started by an organization called Concerned Citizens for Pickens County to remove the board in its entirety.
The sale of Old Gettys is a touchy subject but here are the facts. Board member Jim Shelton proposed the meeting to vote on the sale minus a full contingency of membership following Chairman Ben Trotter’s resignation, leaving an entire portion of the county unrepresented for the vote and with no say in the dispensation of the surplus property.
The election to fill this seat is slated for April 1, so why not allow everyone to be represented? Shouldn’t the residents who pay their taxes in that district have a vote in the sale of one of the district’s schools? Besides, the appraised value of the property is twice the offer that was on the table when the sale to Legacy Charter schools was originally voted down, so there should be more money on the table if an opportunity for bids was in place.
Then there’s the letter written to Gov. Haley. The author has some valid concerns and there are certainly questions that need to be addressed and problems that need solving. Time is short where the board’s expected corrected actions, as outlined by AdvancED’s detailed report, are concerned. A consultant has been, or will be, hired to help the board, but they have yet to meet with an expectation of improvements by April to meet the expectations as outlined by AdvancED.
And lastly, the petition to remove the board started by Concerned Citizens for Pickens County is another matter altogether. Should it fall short of the required 1,000 signatures, the petition will die a quiet death. But should there be enough Pickens County residents to sign it, it’s a different story altogether.
Would the governor’s office act? There’s no way of knowing because as apolitical as education is supposed to be, it’s becoming more and more obvious it isn’t. One thing is for sure, though: If the petition gains momentum and does reach the governor’s desk, there will be some hard questions to be asked and answered locally.
And if the petition doesn’t garner enough support from the public, there is a bigger lesson to be learned here: It’s time for politics to take a backseat in the education of Pickens County’s children.