Under the state law, the school board has authority to close schools. I do not dispute that, but board members also must have a moral authority or standing to make such a decision. When making a decision of such gravity – one changes communities and ends traditions going back to the 1920’s, leaders must be conscious of not only their legal authority but whether or not they have the moral authority.
Phil Bowers is from Six Mile with one year on the board. Herb Cooper has been on the board 24 years, and I understand he visited Holly Springs last week and my bet is that was his first visit. Dr. Merck has been superintendent less than 2 years, and he doesn’t have a middle school or Career Center named after him. I don’t have the moral standing either. While I’ve been representing Pickens 12 years, I’m not from here. Frankly I’m a Yankee with no place messing with a 100 year tradition in Pickens County, South Carolina.
When I think about the people who should make a decision of this magnitude, I can’t help but think our names are near the 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 be seen as having 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 1790’s would be at the top of that list.
Where is the respect for the wishes of those who have been here long before us, or made the investments of time that we haven’t made?
The fact the board seriously considered making 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. The fact they voted to close those schools is unforgivable.
I could see if the buildings blew down in a tornado over the Easter break and then such a decision was hoisted upon us. The board would be justified in making that decision, moral standing or not.
But that was not the case here. Judy Edwards, Brian Swords, Phil Bowers, Herb Cooper and Dr. Merck went out of their way to close those freshly renovated schools — some of the top performers in the county, and ended a nearly 100 year tradition up there. Their names will be mud with the people in this county because they didn’t have the moral authority to make this decision in their eyes.
Later when these trustees think of why they ran and the superintendent what he aimed to accomplish in his tenure, there will be no way to run away from this decision. Closing these schools will be their signature issue and no one will look upon them favorably for it.
School Board Trustee
School District of Pickens County