Courier Letters to the Editor 11-23-16

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Who Can Blame them?

Dear Editor,

I want to thank those who voted last week and those who supported me during the years on the school board.

The main issue was the closing of A.R. Lewis and Holly Springs. I strongly opposed the closings, stated that scores of times, and I voted “no” on the closures. Throughout the campaign, though, some said they heard I wanted to close the schools or I didn’t mean it when I voted “no.” I said that was a false rumor, gave them articles and emails spanning back years to prove it, and wondered where they were hearing this.

On election day, I greeted at the A.R. Lewis poll. Shannon Haskett had a greeter there as well. I heard his greeter tell hundreds of voters: I was a teacher displaced by the closing of Holly Springs and the school board voted to close my school. We need to replace them and elect a new board member, Shannon Haskett.

My wife greeted at the Pickens Fire Station and said she heard Haskett’s greeter there telling voters the same inches from the door. Some said to me they were told the same when they voted.

A surprising number who came out to vote for the president really didn’t know either school board candidate, but knew the schools were closed and didn’t like it. Hearing their pitch at the door, naturally some concluded Haskett’s opponent (me) voted to close the schools. It was a scripted smear designed to mislead voters at the last second, knowing I wasn’t able to respond.

I know exposing this makes some uncomfortable, but it is undeniable what they were doing and reprehensible given it was untrue and purposely done at the last second. In a close race like this, likely it was the difference.

Closing A.R. Lewis and Holly Springs was a mistake. Hagood, Ambler and Pickens elementary are close to maxed out. Looking ahead, the new board needs to reopen at least one of those schools to avert overcrowding in the future.

There is a piece of unfinished business I hoped to push forward. A few weeks ago, a teacher at West End Elementary was terminated and arrested for assault and battery for “tying a shoe string to secure the child’s hand to the child’s shoe.”

The teacher was wrong, and I understand why the parent was upset, however, the punishment was too severe. Forty years ago, a teacher stuck gum to my nose. Would that be assault today?

At the last meeting, I argued the teacher’s punishment was excessive and urged the board to hear all the facts and consider re-instating her with a lesser punishment. Some thought I had a point, but the board voted 3-1 to terminate the teacher as recommended by the superintendent.

A teacher goes into school thinking she is going to teach her first-graders “See Spot run.” Hours later, she is downtown, arrested for assault, being finger-printed and her mugshot is splashed on the front page like a common criminal … over this?

We all wonder why there is no discipline in schools and bullying goes unchecked. Principals and teachers are afraid to say or do anything. With instances like this, and a lack of support from management above, who can blame them?

Alex Saitta