Courier Letters to the Editor

Say ‘yes’ to investing in the future

Dear Editor,

How many of us only choose to say “no,” in our everyday lives?

We say “yes” to serving the elderly, to donating pantry items to the food bank, to rescuing stray animals, and so much more. We say “yes” quietly, thoughtfully; without celebration or recognition. We say “yes,” because we are a community of givers, do-ers and prayerful contributors.

So please know that when we say “no” to a Pickens County schools budget that includes a small tax increase — even when our tax rate is lower now than it was seven years ago — we are saying “no” to a plan that serves students, teachers, and the whole of our county. A balanced, forward-thinking budget with modest revenue increases both from the county and the state, makes sure all our teachers receive the benefit of a corrected salary schedule — this, following a decade of deferrals that have put our educators two full steps behind those in Anderson, Oconee, and Greenville.

The good news is, “no” is in the minority. The bad news is, “no” is loud. And because “yes” is thoughtful, uncelebrated and unrecognized, our voices are not being heard, or worse, they’re being ignored.

Correcting the school district’s budget woes would have minimal impact on the average Pickens County resident, and tax laws already in place protect those who can least afford to absorb a millage hike: property owners over the age of 65, those on disability, those in low-income housing, nonprofits, religious groups, and other exempt individuals and organizations.

Frugal taxpayers can say “yes” to public education and know that it’s an investment in the future. We can say “yes” to supporting a well-educated workforce because it will serve local industry and contribute to future economic development.

Yes is bi-partisan. Yes is responsible. Yes is setting aside time to understand the issues our elected officials face. And then it’s making an educated decision about how best to lend our support.

Heidi Williams


Member, Pickens County

Republican Party

West Central district

Saitta talks calendar

Dear Editor,

I want to follow up on the recent story on the school calendar.

I’ve voted against the recommended school calendar for the past two years for a variety of reasons.

I have long opposed the three half-days built into the school calendar, because rigorous learning doesn’t occur on those days. When students hear half-day, too many think fun-day, so the effort and educational rigor is missing.

Then, two years ago, the district administration added two more half-days to the calendar for additional teacher training. My feeling is with 25 percent of the students reading below grade level, cutting instruction time is the last thing I support. Additionally, teachers have more training than they need, want or see as helpful.

Teachers work 180 days in the classroom and another 10 in-service days. On those 10 in-service days, teachers report to work, but students do not attend class. For years, teachers have said those days they prefer working in-classroom doing grading, reviewing and improving their lesson plans and generally catching up.

It was that way a few years ago when the board insisted on it, but since then the administration has moved in the direction of using more of those in-service days for additional training. The past two years, the calendar put most of those in-service days before the start of school, and most are now devoted to teacher training. For that reason, too, I’ve been voting against the calendar the administration has recommended.

Due to bad weather, students lost 40 hours of instruction last month. That pre-testing loss is painful, because pre-testing is when the most rigorous instruction occurs. At the March 8 board meeting, the administration recommended and the board voted to restore only 6.5 of those hours prior to testing. That was too much loss of valuable instruction time, so I voted against the revised calendar as well.

The school calendar needs to be constructed in a way where half-days are kept to a minimum, teacher training is limited to what is most helpful and if there is bad weather and school is closed, the calendar can be readily revised so that lost instruction time can be restored before critical state testing.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee