By Alex Saitta
March 16, 2015
Just before the school board voted to close AR Lewis and Holly Springs -- Judy Edwards, Phil Bowers, Brian Swords and Herb Cooper voting for and Henry Wilson and myself voting against, I made a motion to delay the vote for at least one year. I gave this speech.
Under the state law, the school board has legal authority to close schools. No one is disputing that, but do board members have moral authority or moral standing to make this decision? When making a decision of such gravity ó one that turns lives upside down, changes communities and ends traditions going back to the 1920ís, leaders have to be conscious not only their legal authority but whether or not they have moral authority as well.
Phil Bowers, you are from Six Mile with one year on the board. Dr. Merck has been superintendent less 2 years, and he doesnít have a middle school or Career Center named after him. Dr. Cooper has been on the board 24 years, and I understand he went to Holly Springs on Thursday, and I would imagine that is quite rare. I donít have the moral standing either. While Iíve been representing this area 12 years, my roots are not here. Frankly, Iím from New York City ó a Yankee -- and have no place messing with a 100 year tradition in rural Pickens County, South Carolina.
When I think about the people who could make a decision of this magnitude, I canít help but think our names are at that bottom of that list, despite what the law says.
Someone like Larry Martin who has been representing the county for 35 years, been elected and re-elected numerous times, would have the moral authority to do this. Someone from the Chastain, the Edens or the Lynch families who have been living in those communities since the 1790ís would be at the top of that list too.
Where is the respect for the wishes of those who have been here long before us, or made the investments of time that we havenít made?
The fact this board is even considering this decision against the wishes of the thousands who have put years, and whose families put generations of time and effort into those schools and communities is reprehensible. If you vote to close them, it will be unforgiveable.
I could see if the buildings blew down in a tornado over the Easter break and such a decision was hoisted upon us ó to rebuild these small schools or not rebuild them? Then we would be justified in making this decision, moral standing or not. But this is not the case here. Absent the moral authority, you are going out of your way to close these renovated schools -- some of the top performers in the county, and ending a nearly 100 year tradition up there.
Iím telling you, your names will be mud with the people in this county because you donít have that moral authority or standing to make such a decision in their eyes.
When you think of why you ran for the school board or set out to accomplish as superintendent, there will be no way to run away from this decision; closing these schools will be your signature issue.
I think time would help all of us get this decision into broader perspective.