Courier Letters to the Editor 2-17-16

A plea from Holly Springs

Dear Editor,

I’m a retired teacher/librarian who, after five years of retirement, chose to go back to being librarian at Holly Springs Elementary in Pickens County. I thought about telling you how Holly Springs has been my family for more than 36 years. How, after moving from Raleigh in 1979 and walking through the front door of the school, I knew I was home and would never leave. I could tell you how it is to live in the same community, go to birthday parties, attend church, go to weddings, baby showers, and, sadly, even funerals of our students. Or, I could tell you of 25 years of teaching clogging at recess and after school to these children, of taking clogging trips with their families, and what good friends we still are. And, I could tell you of how proudly I’ve stood with our Holly Springs graduates at almost every Pickens High graduation since 1980. Last, I could say how the staff and faculty at Holly Springs have been the closest of friends.

Instead, I’m pleading to our Pickens County School Board members to find an alternate solution to closing our three mountain schools and reconfiguring seven schools in Pickens County. I truly believe that the wonderful people of Pickens County will be willing to pay $40-$60 per $100,000 home if it will keep our schools open. I also believe that there are other solutions, such as the penny sales tax, or even moving some district personnel into these schools which aren’t totally full.

Even though these seven schools make up less than half of Pickens County schools and many of our taxpayers don’t have school-aged children, the quality of education affects us all. Why, even many of our esteemed seniors at Hagood Community Center (aka Pickens Senior Center) signed a petition for not closing the schools, knowing how important quality schools are to our communities.

During these times, we have been witness to the struggles in and even the breakdown of many of our families. In my 32 years of teaching at Holly Springs, I’ve seen over and over our teachers and staff giving love and attention to these children who are hurting or needing uplifting and encouragement. Especially during these early years of a child’s schooling, it’s essential to educate them in an environment where they can feel loved, secure and successful. If these caregivers, educators and role models are taken away from our children, a huge void is left in their lives.

Researchers say that the emotional bond between student and teacher is of utmost importance in not only the students’ academic careers, but their lives in general. I hope that our school board will allow us at Holly Springs and these other schools to continue making a difference in these children’s lives.

I realize that it’s our school board’s duty and responsibility to make this decision. But closing schools, and therefore uprooting many children and destroying these small communities centered around their schools, should be the last option!

Finally, as a friend of mine who’s in city administration said, “I just hope the (school) board remembers who their customers are.”

Betty McDaniel

Holly Springs community

member and educator

Corrections necessary

Dear Editor,

What weird voices are speaking to the Pickens County School Board? How can these people be telling citizens that the taxpayers will save a bunch of money by closing Holly Springs, Ambler and A.R. Lewis, our three (happy!) hill-country elementary schools, and busing all these kids to town in Pickens or to Dacusville? Without doubt, it will take “modification” of the destination schools — or building new ones — along with transportation costs — to accommodate several hundred more students. We all should know by now how “economical” that will be.

Plus, we are still paying for modification of these would-be abandoned school buildings while our school district geniuses decide what to do with them once they are empty. Let the people remember — though the board does not seem to — that millions in bonds spent on bringing these three “expendable” schools up to pretty nice standards will still have to be repaid — just as bonds on now-empty Gettys Middle are being repaid, tax dollars to make its web-spiders cozy. How gullible do they think we are?

Far worse than the money angle, it’s really strange to hear school board member Phillip Bowers pushing for this move, when one of his championed causes, that he describes for voters, is preserving “community” for our children. What a great way to do that — yank away our schools, the centers of active community life for several generations, and dump our kids into some central pot — as far from home as they can be moved daily, unless the board decides to bus them to Columbia.

My daddy ended his Pickens County schooling in about 1902, when he finished seventh grade at Old Palestine, over near Keowee River. After seventh grade, children had to move to town to go to high school through 11th grade graduation, or call it quits .But few family farms could give up their child workers. There were no school buses, so high school students had to live somewhere near town or forget school. This may seem dreadful now — but was this worse for teens than it will be when 5- and 6-year-old children are spending nearly as much time on the bus as they will be in the classroom? Or with their parents? These are little kids, in many cases, who we are uprooting from the caring communities they are used to and deserve.

It looks like somebody is starving for control — generally a creepy sign. Something is terribly, terribly wrong with this picture. It’s time we all paid close attention to who and what is running our children’s future — and make corrections.

Dot Jackson


Saitta weighs in on closing proposal

Dear Editor,

Revenue to the school district is growing at the highest rate in 10 years. But for some reason, the district cannot balance its books.

Revenue is growing like this. However, spending is not growing at the same rate like this, but way up here like that. The past 18 months, there has been an acceleration in spending that even the growth in new revenue isn’t keeping pace with. The solution by some is to close some schools to pay for it all. Instead, we need to restore some basic operating principles the board had previously followed.

One, the district does not have to cut its budget like it did in 2010 or 2011. Nor am I suggesting the district not grow its budget. However, it must slow the growth of its spending so it comes back in line with rising revenue. For instance, revenue in its general fund account is growing an impressive $4.6 million. Yet spending is growing by $5.1 million. Stop the overspending. Live within the growing revenue stream; not beyond it.

Two, refocus spending on things that impact direct student instruction. Smaller schools and class sizes do that. Did the district administration need to tear out all the landscaping at the district office, cut down the trees, put in new landscaping, plant trees, plus buy a $20,000 LED sign that flashes “Welcome to the SDPC”? No.

Three, the district spent $375 million on building seven new schools and renovating 20 others — a generation worth of construction. Rightfully so, the focus then shifted to maintaining those buildings.

This year, the board and administration got the bug to start building again, and just spent $50,000 in architectural fees for the Hagood renovation plan. The administration must resist its urge to do more construction (e.g., the district doesn’t need to construct a $1.2 million teacher training center when one of the new high school cafeterias or auditorium would do). Instead, we should stay focused on maintaining our existing facilities.

Four, any windfall in revenue should be devoted to maintaining buildings. For instance, working with the county treasurer and auditor, we discovered in late 2011 the city of Clemson was overcollecting on the TIF to the tune of $10 million. Starting on a path from the county government to State Senate legal counsel to the city of Clemson and then with all that evidence in hand, finally to superintendent Henry Hunt and the district’s attorney, and we uncovered the city was not following the TIF law.

The board and county council then partnered to sue the Clemson City Council. We won the case. The Easley and Liberty city councils were over-collecting, too, and both were settled. The settlement was that the district received back payments of $1.8 million. And in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the district collects $550,000 a year. In 2018, the TIF payment jumps to about $1.1 million a year.

That was an unexpected financial windfall, and guided by that last principle, it should be devoted to building maintenance.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee


Cover the needs, not the wants

Dear Editor,

Our school board has three small community elementary schools on its radar for closure. While I never thought I’d be a proponent for a tax increase, we cannot allow our small schools to be closed!

The board proposed a 3.8-mill tax increase, which would only be about $22 a year for the average taxpayer — less than what a family would spend on a dinner out (and I’m talking about fast food, not fine dining). This is negligible for keeping in the community values and importance of keeping these schools open!

While many people don’t like the idea of higher taxes, if these schools are closed, property values will go down, and the resale value of your home will suffer much more than a mere $22 a year.

Pickens does not have the large business to drive people to live here, but it does have A-plus elementary schools like Ambler. I’ve heard of many people who moved to this area so their children could go to this school, and we are one of those families.

We need to let our school board members know that closing our communities schools is not an option and to use their business backgrounds to redo the budget to cover the “needs,” not the “wants” of the district’s schools.

Laura Demler


Touting AR Lewis’ successes

Dear Editor,

My children are third-generation students at A.R. Lewis Elementary School. This school has been labeled by some members of our school board as being “inefficient.” However, it has efficiently served its community since 1959. It has not only been very effective in teaching our children reading, writing and arithmetic, but friendship, manners, love for others and life in general. These students go to middle school well-prepared to face life. They have been taught love and respect; therefore, they know how to show love and respect to others.

Also, I was told that our school is a “want and not a need.” However, I have looked at their proposed five-year budget and it is filled with “wants.” How could the following be needs? Included in the new budget are a rubber running track, AstroTurf for athletic fields, restrooms at athletic facilities, which already have restrooms, new additions onto a brand new high school, a $1.2 million teacher training facility (there are adequate facilities for this already), fancy LED signs,and exuberant amounts of money for feasibility studies for things that never happen. Are these things worth sacrificing our schools for?

Our school originally had one hallway, with a cafeteria at one end. As the population of the school grew, portables were brought in to accommodate the expanded enrollment at the school. In 1991 and 2009, our tax dollars paid for additions to the school. They were very nice additions that the community could be proud of.

This space was added with future growth in mind, so that they would not have to bring in portables again. Now, they are saying that we need to close the school because we have too much space for the amount of children there. Our tax dollars went towards financing these additions, and now they want to put them to waste by closing the school? I am sure that Ambler and Holly Springs went through a similar progression. If they close all three schools, that will be triple the waste.

This not only affects the three country schools, it affects every elementary school that feeds into Pickens High School. Pickens Elementary and Hagood Elementary will lose their current identity and become overcrowded, therefore creating the need for increased maintenance budget and costing the school district more money in the big picture.

Speaking of ignoring the big picture, the school board is using outdated census data to project that the number of school children in our communities will decrease in the next few years. This is a very short-sighted projection. Greenville-Spartanburg is one of the highest-incorporated and fastest-growing areas in the country. As people get jobs and move into the area, the greater Greenville area has become overcrowded. Many people have now started moving into the outlying areas, which explains the growth in the southern part of our county (especially Easley). When those areas become saturated, it only makes sense that people would start moving into the Pickens area. If we only have two very overcrowded elementary schools, where are those children going to go? At that point, we are going to need all five of those schools.

It is my sincere hope that the school board will listen to reason and not make the mistake of closing these schools. It affects all of us, but it will devastate the ages-old bond that exists in these three mountain communities. Please contact your school board members and politicians, and tell them not to go through with this plan.

Chad Keith


Not honoring Lincoln

Dear Editor,

Many will be honoring Abraham Lincoln in February, but I won’t be. I refuse to celebrate a tyrant dictator who was the father of the loss of states’ rights.

It has become clear to me after reading the book written by Thomas J. DiLorenzo titled “The Real Lincoln.” “Honest Abe” wasn’t so honest. The history I was taught in the N.C. public school system was anything but the whole truth. The North succeeded in indoctrinating the Southern public school children with the North’s revisionist history to my generation, and it continues today.

If anyone will take the time to study the real history of Lincoln, one would find him to be a despicable, tyrant dictator, much like Obama is today. No wonder Obama chose to use Lincoln’s Bible to be sworn into office.

Lincoln is guilty of war crimes for his direct violation of the Geneva Convention by having non-combatants murdered. He ordered the homes of destitute women and children, as well as the elderly, to be burned to the ground, as well as confiscating all their food and livestock.

Lincoln’s motive for freeing the slaves was motivated by power and money. He continued to allow slavery in the North, where it served his purpose. Lincoln’s army captured freed slaves and forced them to do his dirty deeds.

The truth is that Lincoln was vehemently opposed to racial equality. It is well documented in his statements he never considered black Americans or Native Americans as his equal, and considered them inferior humans.

Every Sioux Indian in Minnesota was either murdered or run out of the state after Lincoln refused to pay the Sioux back the more than $1 million he owed them for the purchase of the Sioux land. How honest was that?

Furthermore, Lincoln used Fort Lafayette to throw people in prison who didn’t agree with his ideology and called them traitors. These prisoners included editors of newspapers and even preachers for their sermons opposing his war.

Lincoln completely ignored the 10th Amendment and used brute force to choke the South for their rebellion against federal tyranny.

Land in the South was condemned or confiscated by Lincoln. Railroads were taken over, private homes were seized, the banks were shut down and church services were shut down. Public assemblies were not allowed, and any person refusing to take an oath of allegiance was deported or put in prison, and in some cases executed.

Lincoln was a dictator, thug and murderer. He ushered in the big federal government we see today.

I refuse to celebrate a murderer who expanded the federal government’s strong-arm control over states’ rights.

Johnnelle Raines