Saitta named school board’s new chairman

COUNTY — Monday night’s meeting of the board of trustees of the School District of Pickens County ushered in a new era, as outspoken trustee Alex Saitta was selected by his peers as the board’s new chairman.

First elected in November of 2004, Saitta replaces Jim Shelton, whose two-year term as chairman came to an end.

“Today is the end of my term as the chair of your board,” Shelton told those in attendance. “I am deeply grateful to everyone for their perseverance, their support and, at times, their understanding when hard decisions had to be made.”

Following a nomination by Judy Edwards and a second by Ben Trotter, a 5-0-1 vote secured Saitta the position as chairman. Dr. Herbert Cooper abstained from the vote.
Saitta graciously accepted his new position.

“If a person can be shocked and humbled at the same time, then that is how I feel,” he said. “I greatly appreciate the vote of support and I will do my best not to let the board down.”

After symbolically passing the gavel to Saitta, Shelton was elected vice chairman.

“Jim Shelton is the only one left on the board with experience as chairman, so I will be working with him closely,” said Saitta.
Newcomer Jimmy Gillespie accepted the position of School Board secretary.

One of Saitta’s first motions as chair was to amend the 2011-2012 General Fund Budget Calendar to include three additional board meetings during the early part of February.

These meetings are intended to encourage board members to be more active in the budget planning processes.

“The City of Pickens has a $4 million budget,” Saitta said. “Their budget process is more thorough than ours. As a financial analyst, I sat in many budget meetings. This is one of the skimpiest budget processes I’ve seen.”

Saitta also plans to move forward toward a committee system within the board — a process started by Shelton during his tenure as chair.

“We have very talented board members who we need to be more involved in defining and solving problems,” Saitta explained. “Setting up a committee system will allow that to occur.

“Tell me, why should chairman Alex Saitta be the board’s point person on Curriculum, when Judy (Edwards) has 28 years experience as a teacher? Jim Shelton was instrumental in saving the building program, he has a great relationship with Bob Folkman, and knows more about buildings than the rest of us combined. Shouldn’t he be the board’s point person on buildings?”

In order to fully implement and begin utilizing this type of committee system, the board will have to modify several existing policies. Policies appear to be only one of many changes taking place at the SDPC board.

Other notable changes have taken place in recent months. With the elimination of at-large seats formerly held by Kevin Kay and Shirley Jones, the number of board members has declined from eight to six. Ben Trotter’s election to the seat formerly held by Dr. B.J. Skelton clearly echoed the voices of those citizens in their district.

In months leading up to and following board meetings focused on General Fund Budget planning for fiscal year 2010-2011, Saitta was often the lone voice of dissention or vote in opposition to agenda items dealing with cutting teacher positions or spending amidst budget crises. Not only is he the new board chairman, Saitta also appears to be the lone voter no more.

“As I pass the gavel tonight, I truly feel this district is in better shape that it was two years ago,” said Shelton. “I’m confident that two years from now we’ll see even more improvement and progress.”