District needs discussed during financial workshop

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — At Monday night’s financial services workshop involving SDPC administrative staff and board trustees, superintendent Dr. Kelly Pew expressed the district’s desire to make board members aware of prioritized needs remaining in the building program.

The top five projected needs for the building program in Pickens County are the R.C. Edwards Middle School roof replacement, followed by modifications and improvements to the pick-up and drop-off loops at Forest Acres, Holly Springs and West End elementary schools, and, finally, classroom presentation packages (part of a technology refresh) in the elementary schools.

“We have prioritized what we feel like me need. Edwards would be our top priority right now. SC DOT has talked with us about the pick-up and drop-off loops at three of our elementary schools,” said Pew. “Our request would be to use $550,000 of the $1.3 million to fix the roof and to do nothing else until the spring — until we see what is going on with the budget.”

Currently 475 elementary school classrooms in Pickens County are using increasingly obsolete Promethean boards, which are extremely expensive to maintain, as compared with other schools in the district that have had their boards replaced by PolyVision Boards (the most up-to-date classroom technologies).

As Pew and other members of the SDPC leadership team presented needs to board members, questions about how projects would be funded surfaced among trustees. Not present at the meeting was board chair Alex Saitta, who had an emergency illness.

“We spent $10 million on Edwards, but we still have a leaky roof that is approaching the end of its useful life,” said Shelton.

The unasked question is how this could be possible.

SDPC building program director Bob Folkman explained that one roof at Edwards had already been repaired, but because of all the harm from trees and leaves, the main roof was in worse shape than he had anticipated.

“We replaced drains and leaders that were clogging and we removed trees around Edwards,” said Folkman. Unfortunately, years of tannic acid had already caused irreparable damage to the Edwards’ roof.
As for the pick-up and drop off-loops at Forest Acres, West End and Holly Springs, public complaints about car traffic and safety issues were brought to SC DOT’s attention in Columbia, and these are issues the district cannot ignore.

“We have no money in the building fund, but the money that we allotted to give back [the $13 million], can that not be used for some of these projects, because it was building fund money?” asked board member Judy Edwards. “If it was voted that we wanted to use some of that, could that be done?”

“The roof at Edwards not only should be done, but by state law we have to keep the buildings up. The rest of this money I would like to keep in allocated reserve,” said trustee Ben Trotter. “The roof we’ve got to do, or we’re going to be spending more to repair the inside as well as the outside.”

While a great deal of information was given out to board members, Pew said the district is not asking for anything other than the Edwards roof.
“The technology and roof issues have been out there for several years. None of them are new,” said board trustee Jim Shelton. “The thought process two years ago was to use building fund proceeds, and that was communicated two years ago.”

The $4.9 million GOB (General Obligation Bond) was supposed to provide a one-for-one replacement of all the technology purchases made in 2007. Board members were given cost estimates; however, the cost estimates at the time did not consider the cost estimates for installation of the technology.

Shelton says board members were misled by a district administrator who is no longer with the district.

“A turnkey for a PolyVision is $6,300. Just like we saw with the Greenville Plan, a certain administrator conveniently ignored the square footage of portables that would have to be replaced,” said Shelton. “This is two times the board was misled.”

PolyVision boards were originally estimated to cost $2,500 per unit of technology. This figure did not include the coast for installation. In reality, the entire package for the PolyVision boards — technology and installation — is approximately $6,300 per unit.

“$6,300 for one PolyVision board includes audio, wiring, installation, board and projector. The $2,500 was just for the board and projector,” said E-Learning Specialist Danny Barrett. “The problem was the figure you were given was for board and projector, but it would have been sitting in the room in a box. It was a really good price, but it didn’t get it in the classroom.”

Andy Coleman, Director of Accountability, Information & Technology Services, says it costs more money for the upkeep and maintenance of the Pro-boards, but they are still not performing as effectively as possible.

“Every year it gets harder and harder to get parts and my costs go up to maintain,” said Coleman. “Some of the technology needs to be replaced now.

In the elementary schools that still have Promethean Boards, the SDPC has to spend roughly $160 per Pro-Board just to replace the light-bulbs.
“We wanted you to have this information. We’ve had quite a few folks turn over,” said Dr. Pew. “Well over 90 percent of teachers use their technology in the classroom every single day. At the end of the building program, these schools do not have the PolyVision boards that the other schools have and I just wanted to make sure you all were aware of that. This is going to have to be addressed.”

The roof and technology issues were addressed in the SDPC board meeting that followed the financial workshop.

“We could make a motion that this is taken out of the $13 million we set aside. I mean that’s part of the building program. That’s what we said,” said Judy Edwards. “We obviously need it for the building fund. This would qualify for building purposes.”