Parents, teachers and students across Spartanburg are not willing to look the other way on the District 7 school board’s recent decision to unload over $250,000 of district funds on an exclusive country club’s golf facilities. In addition to Spartanburg residents packing out a recent school board meeting ( video here), letters expressing outrage and disappointment have appeared over and over in the local paper calling for the district to back out of the decision.
Even in the face of widespread opposition by the people whose taxes pay his salary, Superintendent Thomas White has obstinately protested that the district’s actions were warranted and necessary. Families want to know: how can bureaucrats cram such unwise and unpopular measures down the throats of angry taxpayers?
Unfortunately, South Carolina continues to employ an unwieldy, one-size-fits-all public education system that puts ultimate control in the hands of bureaucrats, not parents. Because of this system, state employees like White feel totally comfortable trying to censor what parents think about how their own child should be educated, and can even openly oppose efforts that would grant educational choices free of bureaucratic oversight. Talk about a conflict of interest.
The situation in Spartanburg School District 7 represents, on a smaller scale, how the entire state’s education establishment has been operated. Top-down bureaucratic management has fallen far short of providing true transparency and accountability in South Carolina public schools, and can not realistically not be expected to suddenly start doing what it has failed for decades to accomplish. Empowering parents to truly make their own decisions about where and how their child should be educated will go far in turning this situation around.
Hopefully state lawmakers will view the scandal in Spartanburg District 7 and determine to offer something better to needy families around the state.
Here is what Spartanburg residents had to say-
As a former teacher and a resident of District 7, I am appalled at the recent decisions made by the District 7 school board. The cavalier attitude taken regarding priorities and taxpayer money is almost incomprehensible. I hope sincerely that District 7 makes an effort to void its contract with the Country Club of Spartanburg. I would also hope that the country club feels some responsibility to the community and approves the release.
As people express their heated opinions regarding this matter, I would hope that they can feel equally angry about the generous contract that was issued to fulfill a new administrative post. I have heard that the person selected for this new position is highly qualified. That is not the point.
First, in these difficult economic times, money should go directly into the classroom, not to create a new administrative position. Second, many people suspect that this person is being groomed to become the next superintendent. If suspicions are accurate, then I believe that when Superintendent Thomas White retires, leaves or is shoved out, not only the school board is responsible for selecting a new superintendent but also members of the District 7 community. Faculty members (elected by their colleagues), parents and student leaders should comprise a committee to help interview, evaluate and recommend potential superintendents.
Teachers, fearing reprisals if they speak out, definitely need our support. Conditions even in the best of schools make doing their best, most conscientious work extremely difficult. Finding ways to improve their working conditions and consequently instruction should be the top priority.
Martha Tinder, Spartanburg
I think it is ridiculous that School District 7 wants to spend $325,000 at the Country Club of Spartanburg for the high school golf team. The school is already spending millions on the new sports complex when it should be focusing on education.
I attend a local college, and last year I proofread a paper written by a classmate that was barely readable. I believe that our tax dollars should go toward teaching students.
Stephanie Cash, Spartanburg
It is amazing that even after all of the corporate collapses due to unethical behavior, the School District 7 board members do not recognize that three of their members and their superintendent have a direct conflict of interest related to the proposed payment of $200,000 to the Country Club of Spartanburg.
This continues to show the lack of understanding and lack of conscious thinking about ethics before decisions are considered or made. This type of action continues to erode the confidence of the general public in those persons in positions of power. Their continued abuse of power is interpreted as an attempt to meet their own agendas and not the needs of those they represent.
They should not have approved the expenditure because of an ethical conflict of interest, especially in the current fiscal environment. It does not matter that the funds were designated for long-term projects. It seems that if the funds could be expended for golf club privileges, they could have just as easily been expended for the support of a broader base of programs.
When will the time come when those in power stop looking at their own interests and consider the broader picture and those who would be impacted by their decisions?
Anthony Napoli, Inman
Do the residents of School District 7 realize how many microscopes you could purchase with $200,000?
We bemoan our ranking on academic achievement lists when compared with other countries. Perhaps the answer lies with ridiculous proposals such as the one made by the school board regarding golf at the Country Club of Spartanburg. When the next election is held, maybe voters should vote for candidates who are members of the YMCA instead of the country club.
Pat Burton, Spartanburg
How arrogant of the District 7 school board and superintendent to want to pay $200,000-plus on the golf facilities at the Country Club of Spartanburg when the country is in a fiscal crisis and public agencies as well as private companies are cutting budgets to the bone. Get your heads out of the sand, people. Shame on you!
How arrogant of the Country Club of Spartanburg to even agree that the public schools pay that amount of money on its facilities. Many golf courses charge little or nothing to their local high school golf teams to use their facilities. They consider it an honor to do so. Shame on you!
It’s absurd to be spending public money to underwrite projects at a private country club. Could it be that the Country Club of Spartanburg has found a way to pay for some of its improvements without assessing further fees on its members, including three school board members and the superintendent? If so, shame on them.
The District 7 school board should have the common sense to back away from this proposal.
Richard E. Hollis, Spartanburg