Spartanburg High School is Falling Apart!

Well, not according to any credible source that we can find.

If you are under the impression that the $185,000,000 bond being requested by the District 7 School Board is because of the results of a legitimate facilities study, you’re about to be disappointed.

What you see on the District 7 web page is NOT a facilities study.

It is an advertisement composed by an architectural firm for a plan for District 7 to spend $185,000,000. Even though it has the heading “Facilities Study”, and you see the words “Facilities Study”, architects and engineers know what a true facilities study looks like.

Any public school facilities assessment involving an architecture or engineering firm that does not have the names and signatures of their experienced, licensed professionals on the document, most often, renders the assessment political propaganda.  Especially when it was developed not long before a public funding referendum.  Without their signature and professional stature on it they are not required to employ the standards in their profession to the assessment and defend them accordingly.  One will often see broad generalizations and declared problems that employ half-truths and scary verbs in such assessments that are either non-issues or designed to frame the discussion away from low-cost and effective remedies.  Watch for this especially if the professional firm may be likely candidates for architecture and engineering contracts with the public school if the referendum would pass.

–Art Johnston, a twice-elected school board member in Minnesota and a professional engineer licensed in several states, including Florida.

The committee has a public records request in to District 7 to see the actual Facilities Study, if it exists, and we have not heard back as of this writing. At this point, we don’t have confirmation that a Facilities Study has been completed, much less that any results were used as justification for asking for $185,000,000, especially when you consider District 7’s own words:

As part of the October 6 board meeting, Ron Smith, Managing Principal of McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, provided an update on the district’s facilities study process with focus on the general timeline for the facilities process. The current facilities study is a three-phase study with the first phase of the study to be completed in fall 2018.

Below is a screen shot of the District 7 webpage: We highlighted the important parts.

Note the exact language they use – in October, the architectural firm was only providing an “UPDATE” on a study that was still TO BE COMPLETED IN FALL 2018. (emphasis ours)

Remember October of 2015?

That was the month in which over 20 public forums were held to discuss the District’s plan to spend $185,000,000. All of this supposedly based on the needs of the district, but as you can see, the actual needs of the district will not be determined for years.

Keep in mind also, the architecture firm has been working on this project since May of 2015, long before they even had the UPDATE to the possibly-not-completed study.

Without an actual facilities study, what you have is a series of cherry-picked opinions and inflammatory language intended to guide voters to the conclusion that the schools are in dire need of replacement.

This is the same theme we have seen over and over again by District 7 – a pre-determined outcome that only seeks confirmation, not a true debate on the merits, because all along they knew what they wanted to do.

Consider next the document posted on that same page…

…a presentation by the architectural firm that also uses the words “Facility Study” inside. See page 10.

You’ll see at the top, it says “This report provides the results of that assessment.”

So, which is it, is there a Facilities Study, or not?

And if it is done, why are we looking at an advertisement? Why aren’t we looking at the actual study? We understand the study (if one has been done) is probably very long, and so it’s more efficient to look at bullet points, but considering this is such a huge amount of money, the taxpayers should at least be allowed to peruse the actual study and see it in as much detail as necessary to make up their minds by March 15th. At least make it available somewhere, online or in print for viewing, so that we know it actually exists.

Give the taxpayers some credit here. There are many highly-educated folks in District 7 who are capable of understanding a facilities study, and making up their mind as to whether the conclusions are worth the $185,000,000 (again, interest not included!) price tag.

These questions, and a request to explain the discrepancy in the wording, were asked in writing on February 5th, and hand-delivered to the District Office. As of today, we have not received any answer.

At this point, we have no choice but to consider the statements on their website as nothing but an advertisement for an $185,000,000 spending bond.

However, if we do hear back and can view an actual study that is signed and certified by licensed architects with their credentials noted, we will update this page and let you know where and how to view it.


Written by Beth Hull, Co-Chair, Citizens For the Children’s Future Committee