Promoting From Within 
By Alex Saitta 
August 27, 2013 
I sent this letter to the local newspapers. Some were unhappy when the board limited the hiring-back of retired employees. They didn't see the benefits, but now they are starting to become clearer. 
To the editor, 
Veteran leaders as well as young and fresh managers are vital for any organization in order to make it strong and vibrant.  
In 2006 when Dr. Lee D’Andrea became the superintendent of the school district, most department heads were summarily replaced with those from outside the district. In its initial doses, the new blood was refreshing and pushed the district in a new direction. However, the process went too far in my opinion. This swift and broad change in management with many who had no sense of the winning culture of Pickens County schools had a couple of negative effects.   
This core of new managers had different backgrounds, coming from all around the state and not from within our system, so when they all started to bark out orders, directives were going this way, and that way. The resulting confusion made it impossible for the district to move forward in a cohesive way.  
The second negative was long-term employees who were making their way up the management ladder, ran into a ceiling as the limited management openings were given to those coming from outside the district.   
To deal with these two issues, a few actions were taken.  
In 2009, interim Superintendent Dr. Mendel Stewart and the school board curtailed the rehiring of retired employees. For the 2008-09 school year the district had 120 “retired” employees who were still working for the district. These employees were considered retired under the state retirement system and were collecting a monthly retirement check, but they were still employed by the district, earning their full salary and most held the positions they had when they “retired”.   
For the 2009-10 school year the district was facing a budget deficit and needed to eliminate about 75 positions. Instead of pushing those 75 employees onto the unemployment line, the district did not hire back the 120 “retired” employees for 2009-10, freeing up slots for those displaced employees. The forced retirement of those 120 employees opened up 6 principal positions in the district at schools like Dacusville Middle and Easley High School. A couple of years later the board tightened down the rules on hiring-back retired employees.  
Under Superintendent, Dr. Henry Hunt, the administration/ school board turned it focus back on growing internal talent and filling vacant management positions with those from within the district.    
By not hiring back employees after they chose to retire, that created more openings in management, beit at the department, principal and assistant principal levels.  
By focusing on promoting from within, young, talented, want-to-be managers were given opportunities to run a school or a department that they would not have gotten just two or three years before.   
Just look at the new blood among the ranks of principals: Wanda Tharp at Dacusville Middle, Allen Fain at Pickens Elementary, Gary Mohr at McKissick Elementary, Lori Gwinn at Liberty High and Jeff Duncan at Pickens Middle School. Together with seasoned veterans like Danny Merck at Daniel High, Michael Cory at Gettys and Carlton Lewis at Ambler, the caliber of management across the district continues to improve.   
Alex Saitta 
Pickens Trustee, Pickens County School Board 
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