NAACP Legal Defense Fund concerned with Sumter school consolidation process

Letter highlights at-large board members, ‘rushed’ decision-making

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 4/12/18

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund based in New York has expressed concern to Sumter School District officials and local and state elected leaders regarding the district administration's school consolidation proposal process.

Leah Aden, senior counsel …

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NAACP Legal Defense Fund concerned with Sumter school consolidation process

Letter highlights at-large board members, ‘rushed’ decision-making

Posted

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund based in New York has expressed concern to Sumter School District officials and local and state elected leaders regarding the district administration's school consolidation proposal process.

Leah Aden, senior counsel for the fund, distributed a letter of concern on its behalf and on behalf of a local nonprofit agency on Friday night detailing both agencies' concern with what she described as a "rushed" process.

The legal defense fund also said in its letter it is concerned with the electoral changes that occurred last year in Sumter County to specially appoint two at-large board members to the school board. Sumter's legislative delegation appointed the members -William Byrd and Bonnie Disney - on July 31, 2017.

Both of their spots will be up for public vote for the first time in the November general election.

On Tuesday night, both Byrd and Disney voted in favor of Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm's proposal to close Mayewood Middle School and F.J. DeLaine Elementary School at the end of this school year and consolidate those students and teachers into nearby schools to create magnet schools with special programming. The vote was 5-3, with one absent.

Aden said Wednesday afternoon those two votes weighed heavily in the outcome and that her agency is still reviewing the electoral changes in Sumter to ensure they comply with federal laws and do not violate the civil rights of anyone affected.

Hamm said after the meeting on Tuesday that she received the legal fund's letter and that she and board members consulted with their legal counsel in executive session on Tuesday night before the vote.

Hamm said, based on counsel they received, the district and board still felt they were on firm ground to move ahead.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is a separate entity from the NAACP and was founded in 1940. The local nonprofit involved with the legal fund is The Family Unit Inc., operated by Drs. Brenda and Joseph Williams of Sumter.