COURIER Letters to the Editor 3-26-14

Education, then and now

Dear Editor,

After reading some of the Common Core standards, my first impression was it’s a set of documents written by and for educators. It’s kind of like how you have to be in a particular trade or profession to understand the lingo. But then it became apparent most of the standard was just using fancy words and phrases for making simple concepts complicated.

For instance, the following are first-grade requirements: “Add and subtract within a range of 10,” “use strategies such as counting on and making 10,” and “decomposing a number leading to a 10″ all mean memorize the addition and subtraction tables for single digits. “Apply commutative property of addition” means see if the kids catch on that 2 plus 5 is the same as 5 plus 2.

By the way, as best I remember, “counting on” using my fingers was not acceptable back in the 1950s.

I suppose that’s part of the problem with Common Core. It’s an overly detailed and sophisticated write up explaining what’s already been the process of educating students during the last 100 years. But since it’s a product to be sold to the governments, that should be expected. Make it sound better than it really is.

Like all the other education standards and programs in the state and nation, it will become more important to meet the specifications than actually achieve the goal of teaching and learning. “Teaching to the test,” “accountability reqirements” and “performance reviews” all seem to be more important than passing on knowledge from teacher to student.

I made some effort to find the standards used during my 1-12 grades in 1955-67. The state education department says there were none before the 1990s. Doubtful, as there had to be some kind of planned progress for teaching and learning. And every two or three years there were standardized tests for comparing how the different schools and students were doing.

But anyway, finding out how this Common Core standard compares to my personal experience wasn’t possible. From the reading, it appears to basically follow what I learned in which grade, but those things happened a long time ago.

A better comparsion might be the general differences between “then” and “now.”

There were probably some common expectations of schools during the first half of the 1900s, even though they may have not been formalized into a standard. Those students learned enough to engineer and design our way from basic function calculators to super computers, from propeller airplanes through jumbo and supersonic jets and on to lunar space trips.

Include achievements during the later 1900s in all catagories: medical, sciences, social, literature and all the others. Also include a well-educated labor force to make it all happen. Perhaps someone needs to see if there is correlation between the increasing number of education standards and declining student performance. So much for my “compare and contrast the experience of reading,” “make logical inferences from” and “integrate, delineate, evaluate” the Common Core standards.

Jerry Hughes

Explaining CCPC’s goals

Dear Editor,

I am writing on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Pickens County (CCPC) in an effort to end the speculation about who we are, where we are from and what our motives are.

Who are we?

There were initially four Christian ladies who came together to create Concerned Citizens on Jan. 30. Today, we are mostly moms, a few dads, lots of grandparents, many district employees, community leaders and business leaders who believe in education. Some of the most active members of Concerned Citizens no longer have school-aged children but believe wholeheartedly in education as a vital cornerstone of economic stability and prosperity in Pickens County. Our recent focus has been in Liberty, as many of our supporters live in that district.

When and why did we form?

The Concerned Citizens Facebook page was created on Jan. 30, and the website was created a week later. We formed to end the legacy of poor governance on our school board and never dreamed our involvement would get so much coverage nor that support for our efforts would grow so quickly. We have folks writing us, calling us, emailing us, praying for us and asking us to stay involved through the November school board elections! Today, we are equipped with facts and more committed than ever!

Who supports us?

From the very beginning, there was an incredible outpouring of support throughout Pickens County. Some folks jumped on board because they were upset about the potential loss of accreditation. Some folks were upset about the constant attacks on our school district by local special interest groups opposed to public education. Others were concerned about AdvancED’s review of our school board and embarrassed by the way our school district had been portrayed in the media. Still others were upset over the “backroom” decisions that had become commonplace in school board affairs. Today we are supported by people throughout Pickens County, as well as elected officials in Columbia who value education and who want to distinguish our county as a great place to live, learn, work and retire.

Does CCPC want a second middle school in Easley?

CCPC has been devoted to gaining a more thorough understanding of the school district’s budget funding process, and as a result, we understand the district’s commitment to fiscal conservatism. Regardless of what some of us may want, we understand that funds are not available at this time to build a second school and probably won’t be available before our own children graduate from high school. There are certainly those who feel that our precious sixth, seventh and eighth graders would benefit from a second middle school, but we are realistic about our financial limitations at this time.

Who is our opposition?

Those who oppose public education oppose us. Elected officials and candidates who intentionally mislead their constituents oppose us. Those who value education in Pickens County thank us for what we are doing. It really is that simple.

What does CCPC hope to accomplish?

We would love to see our school board working in harmony with our superintendent, aggressively pursuing partnerships in our communities to benefit our students, supporting our schools and promoting economic development! The best way to improve the financial outlook for our school district is to promote economic development in our county!

We believe this is a pivotal moment in Pickens County and invite you to help us turn things around! We can begin by remembering the naysayers in our prayers and meditations.

Robin Nelson-Miller


Concerned Citizens of

Pickens County

Do the next right thing


Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen, homeowner, and taxpayer in Pickens County. Education has been my passion, and working with students, teachers, parents, and community leaders enabled me to expand my life-long learning opportunities. I have always thought of teaching as a calling. I dedicated 34 years of my life to educating young men and women in a variety of schools. Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to teach children from all ability levels. I have team-taught with special education teachers, taught regular and gifted students, and also Advance Placement classes. In addition to being a social studies classroom teacher, I also served as a department chairperson for a Talented and Gifted program, as the director of an International Studies Magnet Program and I worked in the private sector as an executive training manager for two retail department stores.

I truly believe that all children can learn when they are inspired, challenged and enriched in order to gain mastery in a particular subject area. It is very important to have rigor and relevance in the curriculum being taught. However, in order to do this we must have educators and administrators who are highly qualified and dedicated to providing exceptional opportunities for the children in our schools. To attract the best qualified people, we need to be the type of school system that respects the rights of teachers and students and values the importance of education as a key to the future.

My husband and I moved to the city of Easley in February of last year. As a homeowner and taxpayer, I am concerned about the property values in my community. One of the major draws for any prospective homeowner is the quality of the public schools. All of us should be in favor of doing whatever it takes to make sure that all of our schools are of the highest quality in terms of the actual facilities, staff, transportation systems and curriculums being offered. In order to get businesses and individuals to want to move to Pickens County, thus increasing our tax base and employment opportunities, we must offer a well-educated and skilled workforce. To meet these needs, we must also have a school system and Board of Trustees that is supportive of striving for excellence on all levels in our schools.

I moved here from Georgia, and I remember very well the impact that losing accreditation had on the people of Clayton County. In 2008, the school system became the first in the nation in 40 years to lose accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools pointed to micro-management and infighting among school board members as some of the reasons for stripping the district’s accreditation.

Mr. Jimmy Gillespie at the Feb. 24 School Board meeting said that he had called someone in Clayton County, who told him that property values didn’t go down when the district lost its accreditation and that things really weren’t all that bad. I am here to tell you that things were very bad. The community was turned upside-down. The loss of accreditation sent property values plummeting and caused families to scramble to enroll their children in other school systems, with more than 2,000 students leaving the district. Businesses closed. Families left. It took more than five years for that school district to recover.

We do not want to go down that road. Instead, we want the children of Pickens County to be competitive and to be able to get into the best possible post-secondary educational institutions in order to continue their life-long learning opportunities. A better-educated population means a stronger economy, and a stronger economy means a better quality of life for all of the citizens of Pickens County.

I do not have children in the Pickens County school system, but that does not mean that I don’t care about the educational issues facing this Board of Trustees. We need to be planning for the future of our schools. I like to know where I am going in life so that I can plan what I do accordingly. However, sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes we can’t see all of the roads our lives will take. Sometimes we can’t even see around the next bend. So we just do our best to decide what to do next. A former pastor of mine used to say “just do the next right thing.” Think about it — if we do the next right thing, we will eventually end up where we need to be in life.

When the members of the Board of Trustees ran for office in this county, I hope they had the children in our schools as their highest priority. If that was not and is not their top priority, then maybe they should consider stepping down and letting someone who wants only the best for our schools take their place. I appeal to the board members’ better nature to “do the right thing” for the children, parents, teachers and tax payers of Pickens County. We should be the county where children come first, as they are our future.

Marcia Humbert