Letters to the Editor 1-27-2016

Thank you to Blue Ridge employees

Dear Editor,

My wife and I have been on Blue Ridge Electric Co-op our entire marriage of 43 years. The co-op has been great about getting our power back on in a timely manner. Only once or twice has it been off for about three days. Those times everywhere looked like a war zone.

Over the past years I knew many of the Blue Ridge employees, but like me, most are now retired. However, they have done a great job training the new ones who followed them.

Just a few days ago when I spoke with Angela, I told her I thought they already knew we were out of power. She very pleasantly told me they did, but she would still tell them I called.

With several people losing power, our power was only off from 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Thanks again, Blue Ridge Electric employees!

David and Barbara Holcombe


Saitta speaks on potential closings

Dear Editor,

At the start of the school district’s building program, there were 110 portable classrooms. Everyone was tired of looking at portables and hearing stories of teachers with their classrooms on carts going from portable to portable because they didn’t have their own classroom.

There was a fear with all the money being spent, no one wanted to see portables cropping up in just a few years. So the district administration and school board set out to make sure there wouldn’t be a need for portables for another 20 years. So by design, a ton of extra capacity was added to the schools.

It was an all-at-once building program, and no one knew where the capacity would be most needed in the decade or two to come, so lots of capacity was added throughout. Some of the schools they now cite with too much extra space had a lot of space added to them during the building program. For instance, Ben Hagood added 7,000 square feet, Holly Springs added 10,000 square feet, Ambler added 12,000 square feet, A.R. Lewis added 11,000 square feet, McKissick added 25,000 square feet and Central added 13,000 square feet. A total of 800,000 square feet was added district-wide, or a 38 percent increase.

The old district administration is gone, and more than half of the old board as well. Naturally, those looking at the figures today see all this extra capacity and ask why. Now there is an effort to wring out some of that extra capacity that was recently added.

Millions of dollars were spent to add these classrooms and extra capacity, so it makes little sense to spend millions more trying to wring it out. It would be like one boss paying someone to dig a hole and then the new boss paying someone to fill the hole back in.

Second, this is not a simple operations decision like rewriting policy or passing an annual calendar. Closing Ben Hagood or any school will uproot a significant part of peoples’ lives. You close a school in only a disastrous and unfortunate situation, and this is not one of those. The board and administration should manage the extra capacity the previous board built in, knowing if it is ever needed, it is there.

Finally, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the financial situation was bad, and we didn’t have to close schools then. The financial situation has improved significantly, and the school district is experiencing its strongest revenue growth since 2008. The money is there to keep all schools operating if it is just managed wisely.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee


Numbers vs. people

Dear Editor,

NUMBERS: Numbers can be changed; decimals can be moved without long-lasting effects to people’s lives and emotional well-being. It happens all the time in business and government.

Sure, some people may get upset because of a small increase at first, but then they move on, and after time it’s forgotten and another issue takes its place.

PEOPLE: When people — our children/students, teachers and administration — are given a job to do and are assigned a school to do it in, then asked to take “pride” in that school, it becomes a part of who they are physically and emotionally.

Hagood Elementary people have that “school pride” and an emotional connection to our school. Closing Hagood would not just be closing a building, but it would be closing down a way of life for Hagood people. How can we as parents and community let a part of our children this important be taken away and ever ask them to take pride in anything again without them having a fear of it being taken away? With children in this age group, I do not see how this can be anything but emotionally devastating — not forgetting the lives of the teachers, administration and their families financially and emotionally being changed forever. When you have such a caring staff assembled, it would be a huge loss to Hagood students and our community to have that bond broken over a few dollars.

I ask you, if the Pickens County School Board members cannot see beyond the numbers and realize the long-lasting effects of the closing of Hagood Elementary School to our children and community at large, do we not need new school board members? They found the money to build new schools when they wanted and money to renovate others. They are brilliant people, I am sure, and can find a way to keep Hagood Elementary without devastating Hagood students and scarring them emotionally for the rest of their lives. It would be the same as separating a family and putting them in different foster homes as far as I am concerned. Save Hagood Elementary!

Scott Oglesby


Save Hagood Elementary


Dear Editor,

The School District of Pickens County’s website says its vision is “to prepare students for success beyond the classroom” and that it has a belief “students are our first priority.”

How can either of these statements be fulfilled when they are placing the students and the students’ parents in distress?

How can closing this local school help foster success by putting them in a classroom with more students?

How can closing this local school place students’ needs first, given what our present economic situation is?

Average incomes are down, federal spending is outpacing federal income, food prices are up, our governor is pushing a gas tax hike, Obamacare premiums are going up, and nearly one out of every four people in Pickens County is at poverty level. lists 314 homes in foreclosure in Pickens County, and now the SDPC wants to add more stress to these parents and students by closing the school they love?

Please contact all the Pickens County School Board trustees and tell them to save our small local schools! Tell them to follow their stated belief that students are their first priority … not construction companies lining their pockets with taxpayer funds.

Johnnelle Raines