PICKENS COUNTY – A series of three meetings have been scheduled by the School Board of Pickens County (SDPC) to further research and to discuss the proposal for the district’s long-term planning after hearing input from the public about the proposal to close three elementary schools.
According to SDPC information specialist John Eby, the board of trustees’ Facilities Committee will hold workshop meetings with representatives from each school in the Pickens attendance area in order to analyze and find possible solutions for meeting the ongoing capital needs of the district.
The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, Tuesday, March 1 and Tuesday, March 8. All of the meetings will take place at the District Office Board Room at 7:00 p.m..
The Monday following the last meeting, March 14, the board will meet as a committee of the whole with the intention of making a recommendation based on the findings of the workshop meetings.
Based on public feedback given to the board and administration at public input meetings and through numerous phone calls and emails, the workshops will address the following topics: alternate consolidation options as well as time lines for gradual implementation of a consolidation plan, the possibility and impact of budget cuts to other areas and other options for housing district-wide services such as Adult Education, Alternative School, Operations and Accountability & Information Technology.
Also to be discussed by the board is the possibility and impact of a tax increase, options for a referendum on a tax increase and even the postponement of a decision until after the November election, at which point three board seats may be contested.
The sale of closed school buildings to a charter school operator is on the table as well.
“Many of these topics have been discussed at length by the board, administrators, and stakeholder groups.” stated Eby.
Eby stated that the meetings will be presided over by Phillip Bowers, chair of the facilities committee and that the stakeholder group will be made up of two members from each of the seven schools potentially impacted by the merger.
“Breakout sessions with specific schools and topics may occur prior to meetings at 6:00 p.m. or after the 7:00 p.m. meetings are completed,” Eby stated. “The stakeholders will be appointed by the principal of each school.”
The district stated that in the fall of 2014, four different teams were formed by attendance areas (Easley, Daniel, Liberty and Pickens) representing elementary, middle, high, the Career & Technology Center, parents, and teachers. All members were given comprehensive financial data, and charged with making recommendations for a five-year budget plan.
The teams delivered their presentation to the board on Nov. 24, 2014. The plan was an overview of how to maintain a competitive district in spite of financial challenges such as rising fixed costs and a general fund that is 89 percent salaries and benefits. The teams were asked to solve the major problems in five years pending favorable economic conditions. The findings of these teams were one of several presentations which led board members to consider consolidation.
“It is our hope that holding more meetings with stakeholders to attempt to solve the challenges facing the district that the board can come to a more refined solution and that the public will have a better understanding of the financial realities of serving 16,500 students with excellence and equity,” said Eby.