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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The New Schools Will Make Things Better?

When the new school building plan in Pickens County was approved (despite a two to one referendum against it) we were promised a few things …

"There will be better morale at the schools."

"The new facilities will afford children better test results because of better resources."

"The new schools will boost the County's tax base by attracting employers."

Two full years into the completed building plan in Pickens County, here's what we have:
Test scores excluding Daniel, Edwards Middle, and Clemson Elementary are for the most part flat or down at all the other schools. Some schools have seen only marginal improvements. 
We must also factor in something else when considering Daniel - a select few students perform perfectly or close to perfectly on tests. This, in turn, also skews Daniel's results <--- or any other school's results for that matter. 
Proof of lackluster Daniel performance can be gained from athlete's college acceptance. Athletes from Daniel have failed to qualify for college. 
Daniel (and the Clemson area schools) were performing exceptional in comparison to the rest of the Pickens County School District BEFORE the new buildings. 
In 2013, Pickens County students remained above the state average, but fell below the national average overall. 
The average score for Pickens County was 1483 compared with 1423 for the state. The average score for Pickens County in 2012 was 1541. (A 58 point drop overall)

According to
Eye Taken Off The Education Ball: 
In 2009, most [functions] were in a mess, so the district’s focus was on dealing with those problems and not on the educational effort. That was a major problem.

Buildings: In 2009, the building program was two years old …  all the administration and the board did was buy some land, push around a lot of dirt and draw and redraw plans, wasting millions of dollars. The program was stalled and the building program budget was being eaten up by contractors. The district lacked expertise at the top when it came to the building plan.
In 2013, the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level on the PASS test fell 0.5%.

The last time that we had more than six board members they spent over $400 million dollars on new schools and mortgaged the future of our children.

Schools that were deemed unusable have been remodeled to the tune of millions each.

Athletic facilities costs have run rampant. Stadiums, practice fields, minor sports facilities, and massive land purchases have replaced the already adequate facilities that were in place. Some may argue that moving the stadiums from the city centers may have also affected business districts that were previously built up around these facilities. The new buildings may have also made land near the new schools less desirable.

An eight member school board, save one, voted to increase the $311 million cost of the new schools to over $375 million and precipitated the largest tax increase in Pickens County history.

These issues should be throughly examined before we add additional board members for any reason.

Will additional board members save us money?
Not according to previous boards with more than six trustees. Redistricting is estimated at $30-$35,000. The monthly stipend the additional board member would receive would be better spent on additional resources or teacher and support staff pay.
Will additional board members educate our children better?
Nothing added has created a better education for Pickens County students. Statistics shown above prove that. 
Will the tax burden continue to rise?
It was mentioned that the school board may need to raise taxes next year to meet the new plateau for payback of the school building fund.
With Common Core curriculum implementation, will we have any control at the local level? 
Your answer there lies with the success records of any federal program - such as No Child Left Behind.

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