School District One addresses library book issues and approves 2023-24 budget


During their meeting Tuesday, the Anderson School District One Board approved several changes to policies regarding how complaints or concerns about library materials are handled and approved final reading on the 2023-24 budget.
The Board also heard from several people with concerns about reading material in AD1 school libraries that they say is inappropriate and sexually explicit and others who support how materials in the school libraries are selected.
Each of the nine speakers had signed up to be allowed to present public comments prior to the meeting as required by Board policy and were alloted five minutes to speak.
Speakers included Dr. Matt Roberson, Jessicka Spearman, House District 10 Representative Thomas Beach, Tam McDonald, Katie Leventis, Kasey Dipasquale, Dr Faiza Jamil, Teresa Czarny and Tom Winkopp.
More than 50 people were packed into the standing room only meeting held in the Boardroom at the District Office.
Although on opposite sides of the issue, it appeared that most of those in attendance agreed with the updated District policies regarding how public concerns and complaints about instructional resources are handled and the library materials selection and adoption process.
Superintendent Robbie Binnicker said parents, teachers, staff and board members were involved in “a comprehensive review” of the policies and there were “lots of recommendations made.”
He thanked the Board, community and staff for their input and explained that the policies were based on recommendations of the SC Department of Education and the SC School Board Association and are “a state model policy for school districts to consider”.
“Some were exactly what we had,” he said.
There were revisions to four polices being considered by the Board including KEC – Public Concerns and Complaints about Instructional Resources; AR KEC-R – Public Concerns and Complaints about Instructional Resources; KED-E – Concerns and Complaint Form and IJL – Library Materials Selection and Adoption.
Changes made to the policy KEC included who could challenge a book in AD1, how assignments on a particular book could be challenged and alternatives.
Binnicker said before, anybody could challenge a book or lodge a complaint in AD1. A revision in the policy now limits that right to parents, or guardians, of District One and people who live in the District.
“Our community can decide what is appropriate, which may be different than other districts across the State or Nation,” Binnicker said.
AR-KEC basically deals with Administrative Rules, changing the name and makeup of the committee and form that is used to request a review of materials or books and the process of how a review is handled. The policy states that after a committee review, a written copy of the recommendation will be sent from the school level committee to the Superintendent for review by the District level committee.
Before the change, the District level committee included a teacher from an Elementary school, a Middle School and a High School, one advisor and one administrator.
Under the new policy, teachers on the committee will be from the grade level of the book in question. The review committee will include two grade level teachers, one library, one parent and one district administrator. Binnicker said the Board recommended a parent be on the committee. The policy also allows 15 days for the committee to meet and review a challenge or complaint. If multiple books are challenged, the time could be extended.
KEC – E – Concerns and Complaint Form is similar to the state form but states a guardian or legal resident can make a challenge and asks if the person making the challenge has read the entire book.
IJL – Library Materials Selection and Adoption policy revisions included adding “recreational reading” and states the school principal is responsible for all purchases and addresses the reason a book may be in the library. “Some things are there because they are included in another class,” Binnicker said. “They are books and resources that meet the objectives.”
“Parents have always had library book access,” Binnicker said. “We are formalizing that process. All parents have that option.” Binnicker said that some parents may want more control and could opt out with the choice of three options – not allow their child to check out any books, allow any but a particular one, or state which books.
The Board unanimously approved first reading on the four revised policies with a 6-0 vote. Board member Pat Cox was not present.
After the vote Binnicker said, “I am always available, either through an email or call. We still want recommendations from parents and the community.”
Board member Wendy Burgess said her contact information is on the District website and she will follow up if contacted. “I have never had a complaint on how you handled a situation,” Burgess told Binnicker.
The final policies and related forms will be included in the District/Student handbook.
The Board also unanimously approved final reading on two other policies including GBED – Staff Conduct and AR IKADD-R – Content and Credit Recovery (Administrative Rule).
Following an update, the Board unanimously approved the 2023-24 budget in the amount of $106,344,364. The budget reflects a 10.03 percent increase in revenue and expense over the current year,
The increase is necessary to add professional staff for growth, retain quality staff in a competitive job market, maintain and improve building quality and capacity and offset inflation.
Included are five new teachers, 9.5 new special education teachers and two new staff. It also includes employee raises to help retain a quality staff in a comptetitive job market and additional expense for retirement, health insurance and supplies.
Under the new budget, the current millage rate of 150.05 will increase to 158.05 and will generate an additional $1,163,000 in tax revenue. The District will also use $675,000 from the Fund Balance to balance the budget.
The Board also approved $50,000 to pave a parking lot at the Palmetto High Baseball Field in Williamston. The lot is located adjacent to the town’s youth recreation field which is also owned by the school district. Binnicker said District One sold a sliver of property to Ingles, which was unusable to the District, for $51,000 and agreed at the time the funds would be used to pave the dirt parking lot.