EASLEY — One local group, Concerned Citizens for Pickens County, has initiated a petition to be presented to the state to remove the Pickens County School Board in its entirety.
The organization began the petition as a reaction to a recently released report from AdvancED which noted several areas of concern where the board’s actions and operations are concerned.
“The potential loss of accreditation is a real issue here,” said Heidi Roach, a concerned parent and member of Concerned Citizens for Pickens County. “The way the sale of the Old Gettys property is being handled is what motivated us into action.”
The petition cites several issues with the board as reasons for the organization’s move for the removal of its members.
According to the petition these include the indication the school district “is in jeopardy of losing accreditation due to governance issues including ethics, conflicts of interest, noncompliance with appropriate procedures and failure to promote the purpose of the school system,” and “the board of trustees continues to demonstrate poor governance by refusing public input and failing to provide information regarding major decisions, such as the sale of school district property, despite repeated requests by concerned citizens from all sectors of the community for more information.”
Not only does the petition cite the governance of the board as a portion of the petition’s argument, it also addresses concerns as to district employees, citing “many district employees feel intimidated and have expressed a need for advocates to voice their concerns. Concerned citizens and business leaders anticipate further decline in morale and teacher retention, an immediate inability to recruit new business and a devastating loss of current business in Pickens County under the current school board leadership.”
“This continued pattern of the board’s inability to work together for the betterment of our children concerns all of our community. It’s a growing concern,” Roach said. “The board needs to prove they are making strides toward meeting the recommendations made by AdvancED and until they prove and we have accreditation, we’re not going to stand and be quiet.”
Efforts were made to contact all members of the Pickens County School Board for their reaction concerning the petition, but Vice Chairman Alex Saitta and board member Judy Edwards were the only ones to be reached for comment. Calls from the remaining board members were not returned as of deadline.
“Last time I was elected with 68 percent of the vote and I’m thankful for that,” Saitta said in response to questions concerning the petition. “The other 32 percent would want me to retire, resign, or be removed. Such is the life of a public servant in today’s political climate.”
Edwards takes an entirely different view.
“I’ll tell you like I told my daughter: sign it, then bring it to me and I’ll sign it,” Edwards said. “If removing the entire board is what it takes to point the district in the right direction, I’ll resign if everyone else does. Over the last few years we haven’t been fair to our kids and teachers and that has to change.”
The petition not only affects the board but the district as well and the district administration has no opinion either for or against the petition.
“The administration doesn’t have an opinion on it (the petition),” said John Eby with the district’s public information office. “The board answers to the voters of the county and the administration will allow them to handle it. We have no position either way.”
Though there has been a recommendation for re-accreditation of the School District of Pickens County, AdvancED, the company responsible for re-accreditation recommendations, has given until April for issues of board governance to be resolved.
“The board has to still address the issues from AdvanED’s report by April,” Eby explained. “If the issues in the report aren’t fixed, in the short-term accreditation is still in jeopardy. It isn’t like the board can do nothing and have it go away.”
Ultimately what Concerned Citizens for Pickens County is asking for appears to be simple.
“More transparency,” Roach said. “If we ask for something from our public, elected officials they need to provide it.”
For any petition to be considered by the governor’s office, there must be a minimum of 1,000 signatures affixed.