A decision by Oconee County, S.C. schools to accept new computers from a video poker parlor owner has drawn criticism from some school trustees. On Dec. 14, the trustees voted 3-2 to accept an offer from Fair Play businessman Charles Kormelink to donate one new computer a month to the district.
“It’s a morality thing with me,” trustee Harry Mays Jr. said, who along with Barbara Whitney, voted against the proposal. “We have to draw the line somewhere.”
But trustee Steven Moore said accepting money or gifts from the video poker industry is the same as benefiting from tax revenue generated by cigarette and alcohol sales.
Kormelink is co-owner of the North of the Border game room and also has interests in a restaurant, fireworks business and real estate company in the county.
“It’s been our corporate philosophy to try and reinvest in the community, and we looked around and education seems to be the county’s biggest priority,” Kormelink said. He said he plans to spend about $1,000 per computer with money from game room profits.
Oconee County Superintendent Buddy Herring understands the concerns, but said the district should accept the offer. “If they’re willing to donate computers we can use, and we get them no strings attached, I don’t have any problem with it,” he said. “We can certainly use the computers.”
Joe Rukat, who oversees the district’s technology department, said Kormelink’s offer was generous, but was just a small part of the overall technology in the classroom picture.
The district has a $4 million plan to put at least six computers in each classroom in the county’s 20 schools. The district has already used about $700,000 in state and local funds to buy 400 computers this year. Still, some classrooms don’t have computers and many have computers without access to the internet.