SDPC needs to shift focus

I’m sure most read the article where the School District Of Pickens County paid architects $50,000 to draw up a plan to close Ben Hagood Elementary as part of a proposal to do $15 to $22 million in building renovations and new construction.

The administration and board majority are moving in the direction of larger class sizes and larger schools. That’s the wrong direction. They eliminated 55 classroom teaching positions the last two years or so. The plan is to eliminate 12 to 18 more teaching positions next year. Now they are proposing Hagood be closed. I oppose both and believe in the principle of smaller class sizes and smaller schools, in order to provide students more personalized instruction with their teachers.

The school district just finished spending $387 million, building 7 new schools and renovating another 20. The district barely has the money to maintain its new buildings much less the funds for more construction running in the $15 to $22 million range.

If they move forward, they’ll have to borrow the money. The district is still saddled with more than $300 million in construction debt (nine times the legal limit thanks to the Greenville Plan). And they’ll have to raise property taxes to fund the additional loans. School taxes have already risen from 128 to 165 mills due to the building program.

Not only do I oppose what the architects presented, but I opposed paying them $50,000 to do the study in the first place. The last eight years the district paid architects nearly $25 million in fees (enough to build a middle school). We are a school district, not a construction company. Instead, the district should shift its focus back to educating children, maintaining its new buildings and work on paying down some of its $300 million in staggering debt.

Alex Saitta

School Board Trustee

School District of Pickens County

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