COTU MEETINGS ARE HELD MONTHLY

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Thursday, November 28, 2013


FROM

Conservatives Of The Upstate
A little history …
A common myth is that The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 ~ 23 years before the Pilgrims'. They staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.
* Information gathered from history.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Open Letter To NBC Affiliate WYFF Concerning The Live Broadcast Of "The Voice" On November 26, 2013


Dear WYFF,
As our local NBC affiliate, you represent us … through the news, through your support of local charities, through advertising our local businesses. Thank you.

The general consensus that I get from my community and from social media is … We all love the music talent show, "The Voice". My personal assessment of this show is that it's much better than American Idol because it doesn't seem edited. It seems more professional than other TV reality talent and competition shows.

I, along with people in my community (Liberty SC) are concerned about the November 26, 2013 broadcast of "The Voice". In this episode, the semifinalists sang a rendition of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken"

According to lyrics website AZLyrics, the lyrics are …

"Will the circle, be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by?"

The contestants were "coached" (may I used the word, "forced" also) to use these lyrics instead …

"Will the circle, be unbroken, by and by OH, by and by?"

I'm confused by this.

What is controversial or even religious about using the word "Lord" in a HYMN?

This song is a gospel hymn. It refers to heaven. The music was chosen, knowing it was a gospel hymn.

I'm also confused because characters on MANY of your shows say "OMG" or "Oh My God" or even "Lord have mercy" … none of which constitute praise or have religious undertones.

Furthermore … If you featured the number one song in the country … "Royals" by "Lorde" would you introduce them like this … 
"Here's the song Royals, by the band OH"?

The song featured on "The Voice", as sung, lacked harmony and didn't fit. It was a blatant slap in the face of all viewers of all religions or even no religion.

Please pass this along to NBC and express to them that we noticed.

Philip Smith
Liberty SC

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Notes From November 2013 Four Hour Long Pickens County School Board Meeting

November 2013 SDPC Board Meeting

Boy Scouts led Pledge Of Allegiance

Dr.Nesbitt gave a presentation on technology today's children are growing up with. Confusing and lengthy video with a child not listening as an adult asked child to do certain tasks and child didn't really listen. The video was pitched as "how well children interact with technology" and it came across as a bad example.

Presentation points:
• Education environment is significantly different from just 5 years ago and future generation's work and educational environment will be driven by "iPad like technology".

• Forest Acres Elementary demonstrated software developed for teacher/student academic interaction, highlighting a math application & showing smart board uses. Technology turns classroom teaching into immediately available "app" children can access at home. VUROOM.COM

• Gettys Middle "Bring Your Own Device" pilot program, 120 participated, used secure internet to protect access, kids used an array of tools, broadens access & lowers cost, limited discipline issues with increased sharing and collaboration.

• Liberty High School featured technology innovations and indicated kids prefer their own device to an issued device because the district won't update and will limit use. Students indicated sharing was no problem where some may not have a device. Enhances learning through visual hands on. Coach Stewart from Liberty High School demonstrated his AP History Class' use of Wikispaces to collaborate on answers. He stated that whereas students used to write a sentence or two … now they write paragraphs because they have a consensus about the topic.
• Public Input
• Philip Smith, Liberty asked for a follow up on Pickens High School bullying case brought before the board at last month's meeting. Mr. Smith also relayed a story where he stated that several Liberty Middle School parents had contacted him about:
On November 7, 2013 Liberty Middle School was having girls basketball tryouts. The girls were trying out at the gym at the school.

The chorus had a concert that evening, so the tryouts were moved to Liberty First Baptist Church family life center. The girls were allowed to call the parents to let them that they were having to go to the church for tryouts that day. The girls were told they were being bussed to the church. A parent called up to the school to verify that they were going to be going by bus and was told that they were.

A student texted their mother at 3:20PM and told her that they had been driven to the church by Principal Edwards and 3 other faculty in their personal cars. The parent made some calls and found out that they did not notify and parents of this. The parent called the school district and talked to Mr. Skelton and he said he would have to find out from the school. Mr. Edwards called the parent and told them that he had taken 2 girls in his car, and three other teachers had taken the rest of the girls. The parent informed him that he nor any of the others had her permission or her knowledge of them driving them over there. Edwards said it was a last minute decision of his to transport them to the church in their personal cars.
• Mr. Smith communicated to the board that he was also concerned about the insurance liability.

• Superintendent Kelly Pew commented on Mr Smith's issues with two simple statements that both matters had been addressed.
Fund Balance discussion/seminar - Clark Webb, school district accounting firm
• Tax revenue is trailing 2012 by $100k, salaries up due to step raises and custodial additions, purchased services down, supplies moderating, property sales transferred into capital expenditures.

• Fund balance usually gets attention. Powerpoint presentation on " What The "Fund Balance" is NOT
• Not a checking account,
• Not a savings account
• Not a surplus
• Not a rainy day fund
• When revenue equals expenditures fund balance is unchanged.

• Recommendation is to have two months operating exenses in the general fund, or 17-25%.

• SDPC's goal is ~20%

• SDPC has used sound financial strategy to survive economic hardship, yet faces challenges. (Healthcare listed as number one, and retirement as number two issues)
Board member, Alex Saitta commented:
• Can't give everyone, including people working less than 15 hrs/wk - medical insurance

• District needs stronger budget management, and needs to cut lower priority items

• Problem with culture, Department Heads don't know what things cost, teach them to manage budgets
Board member Judy Edwards commented:
• "We've cut as deep as we can" & "Budget cuts are impacting morale." & "We have to do what other districts are doing."
Board member, Jimmy Gillespie:
• Appreciates District accounting firm Clark Webb's service.
Instructional Committee:
• Staffing standards reviews: standards are clear, some schools are high

• When the new committee is formed, actions can be taken on the recommendations of the committee.
Staff Political Participation:
• Policy change: No campaigning during working hours.

• Policy approved on 2nd reading
Discussion Of Sale of Gettys Middle:
• Board member, Alex Saitta made a motion to sell Gettys for $250K to Campbell Young.

• Board member, Jim Shelton asked to table the motion until a formal appraisal was received.
Board member, Judy Edwards seconded.

COTU NOTE: Is the property actually going to go for the appraised amount or sit and rot? It's clear that Edwards and Shelton have been told to WAIT and see what the 7th school board member result will be so they can build 2nd middle school on Gettys property.
• Board member Alex Saitta, against delaying the sale because past buildings were sold at significantly lower than appraised value and we may lose an opportunity.

Board member Jimmy Gillespie: "We lost a deal on Pickens Middle, we won't get the appraised amount."

Motion to sell Gettys was abled by 4-2 vote (Shelton, Trotter, Edwards, Cooper voted to delay sale of Gettys by tabling offer)
Student Appeal:
• Trotter moved to not hear appeal
• Gillespie wants to hear if for nothing to have precedent
• Hearing appeal passed 3-2 with Board member Herbert Cooper abstaining / Board will hear appeal

A Home-school request:
• Allowed by unanimous vote
Pickens School Property Price change:
Board member Alex Saitta moved to reduce price to $99k and put up a sign with a price. 
• Board member Judy Edwards: "This hasn't been reviewed with realtor, if selling real estate is important for funding the district, then we should look at the $9MM interest to be returned to taxpayers in 20 years

• Reduced price failed 3-3
New Business:
• Chairperson Ben Trotter: Should review mileage policy and spending.

• District accountant, Mr. Clark made a comment that mileage is not itemized separate from travel, so this is a manual and intense effort.

COTU NOTE: If you're on retainer, do it!
• Board member Alex Saitta: We need to control rising costs, give ideas/insights into the costs, one recession from collapse

• Board member Judy Edwards: travel is required, we don't need to know what the expenses are, they are what they are. We should see if pay is in line with other's costs and other districts.

COTU NOTE: Yes, Edwards actually said, 
"We don't need to know what the expenses are."
Local Board Approved Courses
List of pre-approved courses

• 2 Fine Arts Courses (1) media editing (1) guitar

• Career & Tech Center: VEX Robotics course
Board member, Alex Saitta asked to narrow course offerings in High School, saying there were too many electives, and that they cut into resources for core courses.

Admin response: "Course requests drive offerings, we need to meet 24 credit hour requirements for electives, need to expand career field exposure through electives for pathways opportunities, all electives are driven by teacher requests, higher learning organizations require more than just 24 hours."

• All items passed except guitar ensemble at EHS

Calendar Discussion
• Proposed Early Release Time instead of whole day teacher in service days: Tuesdays that count as instructional day, but used for development while kids sent home early

COTU NOTE: Half days are a waste of time and a nightmare for working parents.
Motion to review & tweak calendar in Public Relations committee

Board member Judy Edwards: not going to impact kids learning if they are released two days, better to give teachers time.

Admin response: "Often teachers stay to 5:00 or 5:30 to do planning."
COTU note: Rarely does one see teacher cars in any school parking lot at 4PM much less 5PM.

Calendar approved: Passed 4-2, Saitta & Gillespie against

Policy changes:

• Using Tech in Classroom (Bring Your Own Device), sent to committee, but given 1st reading … will need 2nd reading to become new policy.

Comments:
• Dr Pew: "Hope was for Board to approve BYOD policy before holidays to enable purchases etc to support use in classroom."

Clarified that issue must be handled properly by two readings in separate meetings and that first reading was tonight and it will be sent to a committee to analyze. There will be no December meeting. Next meeting will be last Monday in January.

COTU NOTE: Confused as to why parents would need the school district to dictate a Christmas list … an iPad, iPod Touch etc should be a NUMBER ONE PRIORITY for parents this Christmas.

• Board member, Alex Saitta: Big picture problem is revenue decline & expense increases, people on Board will want to raise taxes which is a disregard for the public who has been squeezed more than public school environment, people should be friendly to the public, WE WILL see more charter schools, school choice, and homeschooling if we continue to make the public angry.

• Board member Judy Edwards motioned to end meeting early and adjourn. Not every board member had spoken.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Penny Sales Tax For Bike Lanes?

A recent poll on The Greenville News website indicates some interesting numbers …


What do you think?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT NOVEMBER COTU MEETING ...

IMPORTANT NOTE:

There will not be a meeting at the church tomorrow night because of the Doodle Trail Input meeting at the Pickens YMCA at 5:30PM and the Election Commission meeting held @County Council Auditorium at 4:30PM.

 Please attend the other meetings.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Doodle Trail Input "Workshop"



The City of Easley and the City of Pickens will hold a public workshop focusing on the Doodle Rail Trail Feasibility Study on Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 5:30PM -7:30PM.

The workshop will be held in the multi-purpose room at the YMCA in Pickens.

Public input will be sought for the project.

For more information, contact

Easley City Hall
(864) 855-7900

or

Pickens City Hall
(864) 878-6421

Monday, November 11, 2013

Your Fireplace … next on the banned list?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has lowered the amount of fine-particle matter per cubic meter that new wood stoves are allowed to release into the atmosphere by 20%. Most wood stoves in use today are of the type that is now illegal to manufacture or sell, and old stoves traded in for credit towards new ones must be scrapped out. More and more local governments are banning wood-burning stoves and fireplaces entirely, citing smog and air pollution concerns.

Notes From The Pickens County School District "Ask Anything" Meeting

The School District Of Pickens County held the first of two "Ask Anything" meetings on Tuesday November 5, 2013 …

Forty one were in attendance. Three Conservatives Of The Upstate members were present.

Superintendent Dr. Kelly Pew gave an update on school district statistics and financials and also updated the public on the last phases of the countywide school building plan.

Dr. Pew stated that a common misconception of "common core" is that it is a "curriculum". She stated that "common core" was a "standard" - not a "curriculum". She said that recent negative press has misrepresnted "common core" and that the "examples" posted on Facebook and circulated in social media and email were from Greenville County and Charleston and not Pickens County.  Dr. Pew stated that the Pickens County "standards" were behind the times and weren't rigorous enough, so Pickens County chose to adopt the standards along with the State Of South Carolina.

After Dr. Pew's presentation, Philip Smith of Liberty asked the following question …
"During your presentation you mentioned the term "stakeholders" as being the body you consulted to implement common core. Can you identify who these "stakeholders" are? Pickens County parents don't feel like they were consulted. Also, can you tell us what all of these statistics would be without Clemson area schools factored in and would we still have the grade of "B" without them?"
Dr. Pew responded that stakeholders were Teachers, Principals, Parents, Businesses, The School Board, and The State Department Of Education. She stated that the School District doesn't break down statistics to the public in that way on a school by school basis. The District DOES however break these statistics down for the principals of all the schools.

Philip Smith followed up …
"You identified "stakeholders as parents. Again, "parents" as stakeholders don't feel represented in the matter."
Pew responded ...
 "Parents are not at the level of stakeholder that we sought input."
Junius Smith of Pickens asked …
"At a previous school board meeting I presented to you a court case from California and their Federal District court that ruled a council prayer was legal. This past week a New York District court gave another ruling that a city council was allowed to pray however they chose. The people don't feel like you've responded to any of their concerns on this matter."
John Eby, School District Of Pickens County Public Relations asked to respond partially …
"We have seen these cases but the issue with them is that they are in other districts. This is the 4th District and this district has a much more strict interpretation of the "prayer issue"."
Dr. Pew followed stating that the School District and School Board had consulted their attorneys and came up with the best possible solution that still involved a "board led prayer". She said the School District had to take a position where their insurance would cover them. She mentioned that other school districts have stopped prayer all together or have a moment of silence - so at least we have something more than that. She mentioned that each board meeting since the prayer issue, a preacher from a Pickens County Church, without coordination or coercion, has come forward to say a prayer as part of the public input portion of the board meetings.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2014 Pickens County Delegation Meeting Scheduled

The date, time and location has been set for the 2014 Pickens County Legislative Delegation Annual Public Meeting.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 2, 2014 
5:30PM
DACUSVILLE COMMUNITY CENTER
2671 EARLS BRIDGE ROAD
EASLEY, SC 29640

Pickens County Senators: Larry Martin & Thomas Alexander
Pickens County Representatives: Phil Owens, Davey Hiott, B.R. Skelton

Thursday, November 7, 2013

But You'll Be Able To Keep Your Insurance He Said ...

When "The Affordable Healthcare Act" was first pitched by President Obama his words were …

"You'll be able to keep your current insurance."

AND

"Your premiums will actually go lower because their will be more competition."

Here's a graphic from FOXNEWS about the epidemic of insurance policy cancellations across the country ….