News Archive

Towns may be connected by hiking, biking trails

A trail system that could be used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders was envisioned by a group of interested individuals who met Tuesday at Williamston’s Municipal Center to discuss a Rails-to-Trails type project that could connect Williamston, Pelzer, and West Pelzer.

Though just in the initial stages, those attending the meeting  voiced support for a trail project that eventually could also connect Belton, Honea Path, Ware Shoals, and Greenwood, possibly becoming part of a statewide trail system.

The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the support and to gather ideas about a trail program, according to municipal consultant Rusty Burns who helped coordinate the meeting.

Input was gleaned from about 20 people representing the biking community, health and safety officials, legislative officials and local town  officials.

The general consensus was that there was interest and that an organized trail system could benefit the area.

Persons involved in road cycling, mountain biking and equestrian and pedestrian hiking, were the primary users envisioned for the proposed trails.

A trail system connecting municipalities along the old Southern Railway rail bed is a possibility, officials said, along with spur trails and/or bike routes.

The trail system could include designated paved roads with improvements for road cyclists, and gravel or dirt trails for mountain bikes, horseback and hikers.

In addition to trails connecting area towns, there was also talk of extending a bike route from Pelzer, along Hwy. 8 to Midway Road and  to Anderson and/or Pendleton, an area which is already used by many cyclists, according to Bob Chambers of the Electric City Cycling Club.

Anderson County Council member Cindy Wilson suggested possibly having the shoulders of certain roads in the Midway Road area widened for pedestrian and cycling use, which would also offer an added safety benefit, Wilson said.

Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said Williamston has rail beds in the area, some of which are already being used as trails.

“We already have it, the question is how to make it usable,” the Mayor said.

Clardy said the old Southern Railway rail bed is passable and contingent to other municipalities. He said he would like to see a tie in using the rail beds,  “which had in the past connected the small towns.”

The Southern rail bed, which was abandoned in the 1980s, also runs through Pelzer and West Pelzer, Belton, and on to Honea Path, Ware Shoals and Greenwood to the South.

It extends North through Piedmont and on to Greenville.

There are legal questions as to the ownership of abandoned rail property which would have to be investigated, officials said.

Mayor Clardy said the Town is already faced with questions concerning the ownership of former rail bed property located in the town.

“There is a question that needs to be settled concerning ownership for the Town and adjacent landowners. We already contend with it,” he said.

A variety of users were envisioned including hikers, mountain bikers, road cyclists and horseback riders.

The requirements of each group are different and must be looked at, officials said.

Road cyclists need a paved path or roadway, while equestrians and mountain bikers require dirt or gravel trails.

The trail system would probably have different users for various sections, and could connect to a larger network of trails being developed in the state.

Yon Lambert of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on land conservation, historic preservation and recreation projects in South Carolina, offered insight into similar projects underway in the upstate.

The largest, a project called the Palmetto Trial, extends from Oconee State Park to Spartanburg, along I-26 to Columbia and on to the coast.

The organization is also involved in projects in many smaller communities, Lambert said.

A project in Ware Shoals includes three trails and the proposed Pelzer/ Williamston trails, in conjunction with Belton and Honea Path trails, could eventually connect with the Ware Shoals projects, he said.

Lambert said a multi-purpose, multi-jurisdicitional trail system such as the one being proposed, would probably be one of the first in the state.

There are a number of grants available for these type projects, according to Lambert.

Lambert said the State recreation trails program has funding available and Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) has $800,000 available yearly for projects.

Kathy Little, of Partners for a Healthy Community, said air quality in the Upstate has been identified as  a concern for citizens as well as lack of acreage set aside for public use. Both concerns would make excellent documentation for a grant, she said.

Tourism is another reason to look at the trail system, officials agreed.

Sen. Billy O’Dell said it is a wonderful concept for the area and the project could boost tourism. O’Dell also said there are a number of historical points in the area.

He also said he is available to work with the group to obtain any state money that may be available

Rep. Michael Thompson said tourism is a big part of the state’s economy and recent legislation for rail to trails provides grant funding to similar projects.

The recent AAU National Championship races held in Clemson, Pendleton and along the Midway and Hampton Road areas of Williamston were also evidence of the tourism impact of cycling in the upstate, according to Chambers.

Quality of life was also an issue, according to Wilson. 

“Major employers look at projects like this when making a decision on where to locate. There is an economic tie in,” Wilson said.

West Pelzer Mayor Bill Alexander and  Pelzer Mayor Paige Henderson both said they support the idea, according to Burns, who also represents those towns.

Belton Mayor Rufus Callaham said the Belton Partnership already has a plan in place to extend a trail from the Belton Square to the Leda Poore ball park. He said that trail could be extended to Honea Path and Ware Shoals.

Debra Garrett pointed out that the corridor also includes the Saluda River which is not being used.

Kay Johnson of Partners for a Healthy Community, said the group will look into how they could help.

Teresa Lock Morgan, representing ‘Think First”, a group dedicated to the safety aspects of helmet use in recreation also attended the meeting.

Also attending were Joe Pack, Martha Jo Harvell, Elanor Dunlap, John Brannon, Josh Boggs and Palmetto Middle principal Barry Knight.

Cheddar Fire Department gets new look

The Cheddar Fire Department recently completed a remodeling project that included bricking the fire station building.

Other recent upgrades include a remodeled kitchen area, a wash room with a new stainless steel washer specially designed to clean turnout gear with and a new dryer. The building also has a weight room and recreation room for firefighters and a recently constructed office area.

Board Chairman Alton Thompson said the community and businesses have been very supportive.

“We are pleased with the support shown by the community,” he said. 

Most of the work on the kitchen and rec room remodeling was done by firefighters. A special tile design in the rec room was done by former Chief Chris Ledbetter.

“We saved a lot of money doing the work ourselves,” Thompson said.

The bricking project will eliminate maintenance on the building, according to Thompson, who said the department was spending approximately $800 every four to five years for paint.

Other additions over the years include expanding the bay area in 1994 to add two additional bays for new trucks.

 The original building was built in 1965. 

“We are proud of our station,” Thompson said. “Anyone can stop and see this building. If there is someone here they will be glad to take you on a tour of the inside,” he said.

The Cheddar Fire Department added a new 2000 gallon tanker in July 2001 and an 1800 gallon tanker was added in 2000.

With the help of Anderson County, a quarter mile walking track was added to the facility. the community walking track is paved and lighted for use anytime, Thompson said.

Playground equipment has also been added and other improvements will include more swings, monkey bars and a picnic shelter.

The department will hold a barbecue on Sept. 14 from 11 a.m. until. Plates are $6 and will include barbecue, baked beans, chips and tea.

Persons wishing to enjoy a great meal and help support the Cheddar Fire Department can purchase tickets in advance from any Cheddar Firefighter or call Thompson at 847-9564.

District One SAT scores reach all time high

The average Anderson School District One score on the SAT college entrance test reached an all-time high, leaping 48 points to 1037.  Officials credit the strong emphasis on school and family accountability, SAT preparation, and implementation of higher state standards.

“Today is a time for celebration,” said Reggie Christopher, superintendent of Anderson School District One.  “It marks a new record high, an impressive achievement by our hardworking young people.  Clearly all educators K-12 and parents should be commended for their long-standing commitment to public education.”

Statewide the average score saw a 7-point gain, while District One’s college-bound students rose this year from 989 in 2001 to 1037.  The biggest gain was experienced in the math portion, which increased 26 points to 518, surpassing the state score by 25 points and slightly above the national average of 516.  In verbal, District One students beat both state and national averages by posting 519 versus 488 and 504 respectively.

District One’s SAT results ranked among the top 10% of the districts in South Carolina, posting a tie for sixth place behind York Four (1066), Lexington Five (1064), Kershaw (1056), Lexington One (1055); Spartanburg Six (1040); and Spartaburg Five (1037).  “When students score this well,” said Robbie Binnicker, principal at Wren High School, “they are not only learning the standards, but they are also learning how to think and reason.  And the mark of a succesful education system is when you can produce problem solvers.”

The SAT measures a student’s reasoning, verbal, and math skills against the skills needed to be successful in freshman-level college course work.  The primary use for SAT scores is as a tool for admissions officials at colleges and universities.

“The admissions process is very competitive,” said Reggie Christopher, superintendent of Anderson School District One.  “At some of our most competitive universities, 17 times the amount of students who can go to the school apply.  Our job is to ensure that all students can pursue their career dreams.  And for college bound students, it means making the grade as demonstrated by SAT performance and grade-point average.”

Programs currently underway include the SAT study course, CAPS (Career Action Plans for Students) conferencing, parent workshops, mastery algebra, and board adapted policy that requires high school students to take four years of math, science, English, and social studies.  In addition, all tenth graders are encouraged to take the PSAT in an effort to identify strengths and weaknesses in preparation for taking the SAT.

Starting in March 2005, in time for this summer’s rising ninth graders, the newly approved SAT will be administered for the first time.  Gone will be the three hour exam consisting of mostly multiple choice questions.  And in its place will be a three-part exam which promises to provide a more accurate measure of what is being taught in America’s classrooms.

Changes include renaming the former SAT Verbal Exam to the SAT Critical Reading Exam, dropping analogies while adding more, shorter prose passages to test reading ability.  Passages will come from various academic disciplines to include science, history, and literature as well as popular sources.  The SAT Math Exam will be expanded to cover three years of high school math containing concepts from Geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II.  And a new section called the SAT Writing Exam will be added, containing multiple-choice grammar questions as well as a written essay.  These changes will boost the top total SAT score from 1,600 to 2,400.

“One of the indicators of a student’s ability to succeed in college rests in his or her ability to write,” said Wayne Fowler, assistant superintendent for instructions.  “Fortunately, the recent changes made to the SAT mirror what is taking place in our classrooms today.  This difference will give our students the edge.”

The new SAT Exam marks the tenth time in its 76-year history that this test has been modified. 

Missing Child alert enhances response time for Williamston Police Dept.

When a child is reported missing, time is one of law enforcement’s greatest enemies. Every hour a child is missing, the likelihood of a safe recovery decreases.

In order to ensure a high level of preparedness for child abduction cases, the Williamston Police Department announced Aug. 15 the implementation of LOCATER, the Lost Child Alert Technology Resource.

With one of the greatest challenges in missing child cases being collecting and disseminating the child’s descriptive information quickly, LOCATER provides the computer hardware and software needed to rapidly distribute critical missing child data on a local, statewide or national basis.

“The Williamston Police Department will utilize all resources available to ensure that if, in the rare case of a child from Williamston should go missing, the agency will do all it can to assure a safe recovery,” says Williamston Police Chief Richard Turner.

Williamston Police obtained and is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to implement LOCATOR. U.S. Congressional Funds will allow NCMEC to provide the system free of charge to law enforcement agencies that investigate missing child cases.

According to NCMEC, when pictures of children or abductors are available to the public, one in six children are recovered as a direct result.

The computer-based system also includes the nationally-known Amber Plan – which sends out bulletins to broadcast stations and law enforcement in the event of a child abduction.

Federal legislation affects local schools

By Stephanie Summerlin

At their August meeting, Anderson School District One’s board of trustees heard about the extensive changes that will soon result from federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) legislation.

Signed into law by President Bush Jan. 8, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) will make sweeping alterations to how schools operate throughout the nation – District One being no exception.

“This federal legislation will change the way we do business in a lot of areas,” said Dr. Reggie Christopher, superintendent of District One. “Even though we don’t get a lot of money from it, we still have to adhere to it.”

Among the changes are:

• School districts must hire “highly qualified” teachers – in other words, those who have at least a bachelor’s degree in their teaching subject, achieve full teacher certification, pass a competency test and be licensed in the state in which they teach. Districts must report progress of meeting this criteria by 2006. And if a teacher employed is not deemed “highly qualified,” the district must notify the parents of each child that individual teaches to that fact.

• If a substitute teacher is employed in a position for more than four weeks (for maternity or medical leaves, etc.), they must also meet the same teaching criteria.

• Teaching assistants, who up to now were only required to have a high school diploma, must obtain two-year degrees or more or pass what the law calls a “content knowledge test” in their instruction area. This stipulation will go into effect in the 2005-06 school year for all T.A.s. However, new T.A. hires from this point on must meet the new criteria.

• Annual standardized tests, much like the PACT already taken in District One, will be administered to third through eighth graders.

• Report cards detailing schools’ performances must be distributed by every school district to parents. Should a school not meet excellence standards set by the state, a parent has the option to transfer their child to a school that does meet the standards.

• Parents also will be given the power to move their child to another school if that institution is designated as “dangerous” by the NCLB law – meaning those having incidents of crime or drug use.

• For students needing English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, districts must employ teachers certified in ESL to accommodate those children.

• Teachers and teaching assistants will be required to participate in professional development training.

• Districts will offer more fortified lawsuit protection for those teachers and staff members who “operate under their scope of authority.”

While U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige says that “No Child Left Behind helps us look at schools, governance and the federal role in education the right way,” some Anderson One trustees questioned the law’s criteria.

“So you could have a veteran teacher who has been teaching kindergarten for 25 years, and we would have to tell her she has to take a test?” asked Board Secretary Sallie Lee about the new standards set for teaching assistants.

“We are going to support them and offer them the information that will help them pass the test,” said David Havird, assistant superintendent.

The law could also prove to be expensive for school districts. 

“There will be costs associated with this,” said Christopher. “For example, we will have to offer salary increases for the two-year degrees we will require.”

In other news, the District had good news on the standardized testing front. Dr. Wayne Fowler, assistant superintendent for instructions, reported that Anderson One ranked second in the state in BSAP Exit Exam scores – surpassing the state average scores in reading, writing and math.

Local students also fared well on the ACT - ranking fourth out of 87 districts in the state.

“That is particularly commendable, since we only had 114 students, graduating seniors, taking the ACT last year,” Fowler said.

And the District surpassed expectations by making great strides on SAT scores. In 2002, Anderson One’s verbal scores increased 22 points and its math scores by 26 points. Verbal scores were 15 points above national average, while math was two points above national average. All totaled, District One was tied for sixth in the state in SAT scores and was one of 11 districts to score above the national average.

“This is the highest our district has ever scored,” Fowler said. “These results could not have been accomplished without students, parents,  teachers, administrators and our school board being an integral part of this picture.”

The board also heard two considerations from the superintendent – one, to make an addition to Administrative Rule IKF-R, which allows students one unit short of the 24-unit graduation requirement to participate in commencement exercises prior to attending summer school. The rule change was passed unanimously by the board.

The other – a consideration to bid Wren High’s ninth grade academy – also passed. Christopher presented architectural renderings of the new facility to the board – a facility that will include two new wings, an entrance/commons area that consists of a rotunda with skylights, and a new gymnasium.

“The facility will be 59,000 square feet – it’s basically a new school,” said Christopher of the academy.

Approximately 500 freshmen will fill the new facility’s classrooms. The academy will face Wren Elementary.

In his financial report to the board, District Business Manager Steve Uldrick reported revenue of $5,123,852 and expenditures of $5,423,550 to date.

Havird, in his student nutritional report, stated the Dis


 

 

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