School board approves Gettys sale

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

EASLEY — After months of discussion, the Pickens County School Board of Trustees voted to go ahead with the sale of the former Gettys Middle School property during Monday night’s meeting.

The motion approved Dr. Kelly Pew negotiating terms with a prospective buyer, with the board reserving the right to approve terms and conditions of the sale.

The motion was approved with a 3-2 vote, with Judy Edwards and Dr. Herbert Cooper voting against it.

Board members also approved a response to AdvancED concerning their issues with board governance. The response is a 10-page report is broken into six parts.

“I hope people take time read it,” board chair Alex Saitta said. “The board took AdvancED’s concerns very seriously, and we believe our actions will satisfy their requirements. The board met five times to discuss the report. We met with our consultant and attorney during the process. We met a total of 15 hours over the past two months.”

Saitta said he believes the board is well on its way to renewing its AdvancED accreditation.

The board also approved changes in the student dress code. Saitta was all for the revised code.

“I know the principals sometimes get grief about enforcing the dress code,” Saitta said. ” I strongly support all the principals in enforcing this policy/code. I see our main responsibility as preparing students to careers. If a person walked into an interview violating these rules, they wouldn’t get the job. Not only are they representing themselves, but the company, and that is a valuable lesson for children to learn.”

Controversy was also brought up over a budget amendment.

“I don’t support the course the board and administration have taken since Ben Trotter left (at the beginning of February),” Saitta said. “Let me show you what I’m seeing and express my concerns. At the Jan. 27 meeting, $9.4 million in extra interest that was set aside was spent. Also, $3 million of general fund savings was spent. $615,000 in capital account savings was spent at that meeting. In the 2013-14 budget, there was a $500,000 contingency (or money set aside) built in at the start of the year, and that was spent tonight.”

“All the savings that was built up the last three years and put in all those different places has been spent in two months. In total, nearly $14 million has been spent since Trotter left the board. This is putting the district in a vulnerable financial position going into the 2014-15 budget.

“Actions like these are going to put the district back in the same ditch it was in 2010, and it will all be self-inflicted,” Saitta said. “We haven’t even seen the 2014-15 revenue estimates from the county or state yet. What if we get those figures and the 2014-15 budget is $1.5 million in deficit? There will be no savings left to plug the deficit or even cushion the blow.”