School board to meet again on sale of former Gettys property

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

COUNTY — The Pickens County School Board has scheduled a meeting for 6:30 p.m. next Monday to discuss and vote on the sale of the former Gettys Middle School.

A bid from Legacy Charter School is expected to receive attention from the board. The board approved the motion to hold the meeting with a 3-2 vote at its meeting on Monday. Voting against the proposal were board trustees Judy Edwards and Dr. Herbert Cooper, while trustee Ben Trotter — whose resignation from the board is effective on Saturday — was not present.

The board also voted 4-1 to approve the proposed school calendar for 2014-2015. Trustee Alex Saitta voted against the proposal based on the addition of more teacher training time cutting into students’ classroom time.

“I feel that when you look at (the fact that) 25 percent of our kids are not up to grade level in math (and) 20 percent are not up to grade level in reading, I just don’t want to reduce classroom instruction time by one minute, let alone two hours,” Saitta said. “I know you are saying you want to give employees more training those days, but I think there are ways you can give employees more training without cutting student instruction time.”

Edwards said that teachers going for training after a full day in the classroom is not as effective.

The board also voted to spend $13 million on capital improvement projects. Board members were given a list of the projects, which included new roofs for various schools. The board approved the list with a vote of 3-2, with Saitta and Jimmy Gillespie voting against the projects.

Saitta said the $13 million appeared from delays in the beginning of the building project, and that the board voted to spend that money to repay debt.  $3.6 million of that was later redirected to be spent on technology.

“The building program was too big, and seems to grow, and spending this revenue it will officially grow again,” Siatta said. “And whenever there’s a need, it always seems that the first reaction too often is just to jump into money. I look at the total spending of $150 million and I would think you could find a million there to show people that you are using money you have first before you reach for money they might have. Once this interest money is spent, it’s gone, and there’s going to be needs after that and needs after that.

“When you jump ahead on the interest money you just jump that much closer to a tax increase,” Saitta continued. “My feeling is that you first look at what you have, then look at interest money, then you go to taxes.”

Gillespie said that with the building program every penny that was available was spent.

“Now we’re about to do the same thing again,” Gillespie said. “I can’t vote for that.”

Edwards asked why the district should take the risk of kids being injured due to poorly maintained schools.

The measure was approved with a 3-2 vote, with Gillespie and Saitta voting against the measure.

Saitta was also honored by the S.C. School Board Association for serving 10 years on the school board.