Courier Letters to the Editor 6-17-15

Gillespie continues


Dear Editor,

There are several funds or budgets within the school district. These funds can’t be intermixed. The two largest are operations and capital improvements.

The goal of the administration is to raise taxes for operations. The school board presently has three members who won’t vote to raise taxes. That leaves two strategies for the liberals in Pickens County: pick out one board member and smear him till he resigns or add a liberal spender to the board.

When Danny Merck said in his newspaper interview that taxes hadn’t been raised in 10 or 12 years, that was only half true. They haven’t been raised for operations, but they were raised about 40 mills for the new schools. When a teacher said in a recent letter to the editor that 89 percent of the budget is for salaries, that’s half true. What about the bond payment on the new schools? That’s a totally different fund. What is similar about the two is that they both come from taxpayers’ pockets.

Where does AdvanceED fit into this? They’re being used for media hype to stir up the public against Saitta and one other board member, possibly Henry Wilson. When AdvanceED officials do their “surveys,” they only hear from the people who hate Saitta. The surveys are so biased that they’re nothing more than a joke. However, the ball is rolling, and in the end I suspect SDPC will lose its accreditation and Saitta will still be on the board. After all, he’s done nothing except stretch AdvanceED’s “best practices.”

During my four years on the board the following events allegedly happened. A coach fondled a student. Two teachers had sex with students. An administrator and a teacher sold drugs. A principal and clerk stole thousands from their school. A coach threatened a parent. A teacher had to quit because he smokes marijuana. At least twice, football players were caught with drugs, but they got to play in the big game before being suspended. But Alex Saitta bent some policies. OMG! You know what, AdvanceED? I didn’t see any of this stuff mentioned in any of your reports on SDPC.

Many people in the SDPC don’t follow policies to the letter. Policies are unenforceable. They’re nothing more than suggestions as to how something should be done. They’re not laws. And best practices are somebody’s idea of what’s good for somebody else.

I’d just about bet my next paycheck that if taxes were suddenly raised, AdvanceED would go away. Somebody in the administration should wave the same magic wand that turned a football player’s 9 mm into a BB gun and make that happen.

Jimmy Gillespie


Not letting a good crisis go to waste

Dear Editor,

I have yet to hear a logical reason why adding a seventh school seat is necessary.

The continued argument of needing an odd number of board members to avoid tie votes can be dismissed by the fact that out of more than 700 votes, only nine were tied. And it is my understanding that once this fact was pointed out to AdvanceED, tie votes were dropped as a concern a couple of years ago. According to Dr. Brian Swords’ recent statement, the problem of split votes of the six-member board was not referenced in the AdvancED report.

To reintroduce a problem that had already been addressed to the satisfaction of AdvanceED, unnecessarily adding another issue for the board to deal with, would not seem the best route to safeguarding the district’s accreditation.

AdvancED renewed the School District of Pickens County’s accreditation last year. SDPC schools received high marks in the last AdvancED review, and our teachers do an excellent job, as evidenced by SDPC’s statewide ranking of 10-15 out of 81 school districts, according to SDPC superintendent Danny Merck. Chairman Swords and the rest of the board members absolutely will not allow accreditation to be lost.

The current hysteria surrounding our school board is politically motivated. Ultimately the goal is to appoint a seventh board member that will vote for more borrowing/debt and more spending between now and 2018, when that board seat would be properly elected. The tactic of not letting a crisis (real or not) go to waste is being played out.

Steve Haynie


Neal Collins should focus elsewhere

Dear Editor,

I read the news story where State Representative Neal Collins has taken it upon himself to try to “fix” the Pickens County school board by adding a seventh seat. He claims the board is overmanaging the school district.

The State Department of Education was created to monitor and review all the school districts in the state of South Carolina. That responsibility starts with state superintendent of education Molly Spearman.

If Collins has a complaint about the school district, I believe, it would be more constructive to file a complaint with the State Department of Education. Our school district is in line with all state education laws and regulations and is fully accredited by the State Department of Education. The state would tell Collins the district is doing nothing wrong.

Collins justified his push for the seventh seat by saying AdvancED would look favorably on adding the extra seat. Sen. Larry Martin spoke directly to AdvancED and asked if adding a seat would address the problems. AdvancED said the answer was a point-blank no. Sen. Martin has also stated publicly, “the responsibility for addressing the AdvancEd issues is clearly with our board members.”

Another reason given for a seventh seat was tie votes. You might like to know, there have been only nine tie votes out of more than 700 votes in five years, all of which were resolved without problem. It seems Collins has a credibility problem.

I believe the motivation for adding a seventh seat is to implement a political agenda — add another liberal to the school board to support an agenda of higher taxes.

I have personally asked Collins if he supports the “Robin Nelson Miller (aka Concerned Citizens of Pickens County) push for a tax increase. He suddenly became silent and would not answer, and I repeated the question several times to no avail.

Considering the state legislature shortchanges funding for school districts and county governments, perhaps Collins, a state representative, should work on “fixing” that instead.

Rick Tate


Saitta talks same-sex marriage

Dear Editor,

In the gay marriage case before the U.S. Supreme Court, there are two questions: Does the 14th Amendment (Equal Protections Clause) require states to expand their definition of marriage to include two people of the same sex? Does it require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when they were lawfully married in another state?

After listening to the oral arguments, this is going to be a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but I think Kennedy will vote there are no 14th Amendment violations here, and the states have the right to define what a marriage is and is not in their state.

My reasoning is quite simple. Let’s say the court rules same-sex couples can get married because they have a 14th Amendment right to marry. What legal principle in the 14th Amendment would suddenly shut off and prohibit three women from marrying, or a man and two women? The fact the court would then be in the game of picking the place to turn off that right over the next 10 years or so indicates this is not a rights issue — rights are either there or not. But rather, defining marriage is an arbitrary decision, hence reserved for the states, the legislative process and the people.

Justice Samuel Alito said, suppose we rule in favor of the gay couple and then after that, a group consisting of two men and two women apply for a marriage license. Would there be any grounds for denying them a license?

Next, I don’t think the court sees it as its decision to change the definition of marriage in the face of history.

Kennedy said one of the problems is when you think about these cases, “the word that keeps coming back to me is millennia.”

First of all, he said there has not really been time for the federal system to engage in this debate or the separate states — only 10 years.

“I don’t even know how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia,” Kennedy said. “And it’s very difficult for the court to say, “oh, well, we know better.”

Alex Saitta