Progress or propaganda?

The Pickens area school consolidation was painful and unfortunate, and brought to mind the adage “There is pain with change and pain with staying the same, choose the one that moves you forward.” No one wanted to close any schools, but after extensive study there is simply no justification for spending limited tax dollars operating five buildings, all within a few miles of one another, when only three are needed.

Alex Saitta has been critical of recent board decisions, particular mine, not only on consolidation, but almost any measure to long-range plan, manage costs, recruit and reward the best teachers, improve technology, and maintain the buildings taxpayers paid so dearly for.

My friend Alex Saitta has been on the board for over a decade. During that period taxes have risen dramatically. He is quick to say he did not vote for tax increases, but that’s a poor excuse. During my short time on the board I voted against every tax increases too, but along with that I offered other solutions and helped solve problems. Just voting no is not leadership. Leaders find solutions to problems, but that has not been the case with the school board until recently.

Just about a year ago, when several new board members saw the need to lead, teacher pay was deficient, our Career Center, which I believe is critical to the success of the county, was underfunded, our classroom technology was grossly inadequate, and building maintenance neglected.

Our nurses, bus drivers, band teachers and athletic coaches, ROTC officers, and data entry and bookkeepers were all underpaid. Additionally, our accreditation status was threatened; many said we’re on the verge of losing it. The outlook was dismal just a year ago. By most any measure, management of the school board over the last decade has been a disaster. And now we have a long-time board member attacking new members who are keeping taxes flat and solving problems too? Bizarre indeed.

What a difference a year makes. During the past year there’s been no tax increase, teachers and staff are paid more fairly, Career Center funding restored, and technology has been upgraded dramatically. The accreditation issue is resolved and student performance is among the best in the state. Do we have a perfect plan? No, but we started a process to recover from the decade of dereliction.

Bottom line, my friend Alex had over a decade to prove his effectiveness but failed. His rhetoric rings hollow and his endless rants have created turmoil for years. The last year proves there’s a better way, and a new majority of Trustees are committed to solving problems, no matter the political torment. Change can be painful, but I would rather endure pain and see progress for our children and community than prolong the misery of the last decade.

Phillip Bowers

School Board District II Trustee

Chairman, Pickens County Republican Party

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