Band petitions SDPC for funds

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — What to do with the proceeds from the sale of the Easley High School band practice field, property located across from the old EHS on Pendleton Street in Easley, was fodder for much of the public input forum during last week’s SDPC board meeting.

Board trustee Ben Trotter made a motion to have the question about funds considered by the facilities committee with a report coming back to the board so they might make a more informed decision on the matter. In a 5-1 vote, Trotter’s motion passed and the matter was sent to committee.

Board chair Alex Saitta said that he would not vote for the proceeds of the sale to go to the EHS band program because earmarking the funds would create a “county nightmare.”

“The school system is a collective system, which means no one area has ownership of anything. It is owned by the system as a whole,” said Saitta. “The money comes in, and it is used for the most important need at the time. We have a bit of a surplus this year, and part of what contributed to that was the sale of the property in Pickens. This goes into the general fund, and that money will be used in other places in the county.”

While Saitta doesn’t disagree that the EHS band program would benefit from new instruments and equipment, he does believe that earmarking money is not a good idea because it sets a precedence for other schools to make similar requests in the future.

“We sold the stadium in Liberty for $100,000. That money goes into the general fund. Liberty does not have a claim on that money,” he said. “When you start to earmark funds like this, and you do it one time, you’re going to do it every time.”

Former EHS alumni and band member Beth Patterson read a letter written by her father, who sold the property in December 1977, with business partner Garnet Barnes, to the SDPC.

“I understand the land is going to be sold,” the letter read. “With all the hard work that has been put into this field over the many years by the band parents, the directors and the students, I would love to see the EHS band program receive some, if not all, the funds from the sale of this site.”

Patrick Patterson, who has also helped maintain the field for the last eight years, said he spent approximately $1,000 to $1,500 a year on the grass.

“We’ve done it all for the children and the band program,” he said. “There is lots of blood, sweat and tears in that field. We’d like to see it go back to the band program.”

Patrick Mainieri, band director both at Gettys Middle and EHS, said that band students are currently using instruments that have far surpassed their 6-8 year life spans. The instruments are in such disrepair that they do not tune properly.
“There has been no preventive maintenance on instruments since summer 2008,” said Mainieri. “They are now in their 15th year of use.”

Kristen Gill, also a band director at EHS, showed board members instruments that are being held together by duct tape and bungee cords.

“The last thing we want to do is tell the students they can’t play an instrument because there isn’t one in working condition,” she said.

EHS band booster club president Robin Fish said the booster club and band parents have paid for lights and electricity — spending upwards of $3,000 per year for upkeep of the practice field.

“Why would this money be better used on the band? The EHS band represents a large number of Easley High School,” she said. “We have students ranked in the top 10 percent of their class and the bottom 10 percent of their class. We represent them all.

“Being in band teaches our kids respect, discipline, hard work, team work. Even when their instruments are held together with black duct tape and bungee cords, they still show pride.”

Trotter said it is his understanding that the land was offered very cheap to the band and the EHS band booster club originally purchased it.

“If it were bought with taxpayer money or district money that would be one thing,” he said. “But it was bought with booster money. How can we tell the booster club you spent all this money but if we ever get rid of it we’re going to keep it?”

Trotter’s motion did pass and has been sent to committee for further investigation.

Saitta maintains, however, that the issue has to do less with the funds than with accounting for how funds are spent.

“The bigger issue is do we change how we account for things and earmark funds? It will be a county nightmare.”