Anderson School District One Board elects officers, hears CRT concerns

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During their meeting Tuesday (Nov. 29), the Anderson School District One Board elected board officers, approved second reading on four policies and heard the annual financial audit report.
The Board also heard from two residents concerned with a pilot program being used in the District, which they claimed has connections to CRT and other Marxist agendas.

Election of officers was held at the beginning of the meeting. Board member and current Chair Nancy Upton was elected Board Chairman. Brenda Ellison was elected Vice Chairman and David Merritt was elected Board Secretary. Mike Wilson was chosen to continue serving on the Alternative School Board. Board members Wendy Burgess and Nancy Upton will continue to serve on the Anderson School Districts One and Two Career and Technology Center board.

New teaching hires were introduced by Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Becky Brady.
A group of Powdersville Middle School students and a group of Powdersville Elementary School students were recognized for recently achieving perfect scores on SC Ready state testing.

Two Powdersville area residents addressed the board with concerns about the “CASEL” software and “Leader In Me” pilot program in Anderson District One schools. Both had recently moved from New York and had concerns about possible CRT (Critical Race Theory) indoctrination in the programs due to wording such as diversity, equity and transformation used in descriptions on the program websites.
Other wording such as “root cause of inequity”, “redistributing power” and “just and equitable” were mentioned as examples of a “transformative” program they said can be used to advance racist CRT and marxist goals. There was also a question about whether the programs were approved as required by board policy.
Board member Wendy Burgess responded by asking if they understand what “CASEL” stands for. Burgess said the Board knows their policies and that District One addresses the needs of those who have experienced trauma.
Following the meeting, Superintendent Robbie Binnicker told The Journal that “CRT is not in the curriculum. We don’t teach it. We don’t endorse it,” he said.
When asked if they will be taking another look at the “CASEL” and “Leader In Me” programs, Binnicker said the District is always looking at and adjusting policies and programs it uses to meet the education needs of students.

In the financial report, Binnicker said the Building Fund had a $14.9 million balance. The GO Bond account, which will be used for a new building program starting in 2023, has a balance of $21.6 million. “We are ready to begin our building program,” Binnicker said.
Reporting on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) receipts for July and August, Binnicker said Anderson County collected $6.1 million in revenues. Of that, $2 million came to AD1. $403,000 will go toward property tax relief and $1.6 million will go toward Capital projects.
The LOST account currently has a $9.2 million fund balance.
Binnicker said the current (2019) building program has approximately $7.8 million left in the fund with three projects being finished up. Those projects are the Powdersville High press box, the Transportation and IT Building and renovations at the Palmetto High baseball field.
Binnicker said the 2022 Building program has revenues of $21.6 million and the District is ready to start the new building program. The only expenses so far have been the cost of selling the bonds which amounted to $156,000.

Assistant Superintendent of Administration/Instruction Dr. Jeff Wilson reported that Powdersville Elementary School was recently recognized as a Model Professional Learning Community At Work.

Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Becky Brady reported the Nutrition program, which averaged 6650 meals served pre-COVID, is now averaging 7980. She said food costs are up about thirty percent, which will amount to approximately $400,000 in extra food costs. The program has some extra revenue which is being used for new vending machines, new cafeteria tables and computer systems needed for the food program.

During his Yearly Audit Presentation, Auditor Ken Meadows, of Green, Finney and Cauley Accounting, reported that Anderson School District One received an “Unmodified Opinion” on their financial statements which is “the best you can get”. (See separate story)
“The district is in very good financial condition as of the year end,” Meadows said. “The audit went well.”

Second reading approval was also given to the following policies: JKE – Expulsion of Students; JQ – Student Fees, Fines and Charges; EF-AR – Food Services; JJI – Interscholastic Athletics and BBBD – Board Member Removal from Office.

Correction – In the Anderson School District One story last week in the print edition, The Journal incorrectly stated the name of the software that was being questioned by two Powdersville area residents.

The correct name of the software is “CASEL” which stands for Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
The CASEL website states that a goal of the program is to make social and emotional learning (SEL) part of a high-quality and equitable education for all.
At its core, SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.