Dear Sumter County Council members:
Mr. Chris Griner, Sumter School District's former chief financial officer, reported in the district's April 30, 2018, Spring Bond Projects an extensive list of Athletic Renovations for the district which would cost $1,500,000.
It is very important to mention that 17 renovation projects at several different schools are included in the school district's Spring Bond Projects.
Included among these projects are renovations at R.E. Davis Elementary School ... part of the Sumter School District's School Closure and School Consolidation Plan.
Mr. Griner, in his report, mentioned that the repair of and replacement of HVAC systems are expensive but necessary expenditures for the school district.
Mr. Griner's report reveals that Pocalla Springs Elementary School's HVAC replacement will cost $2,000,000. In addition, he added that the HVAC systems at Sumter High School and at the Career Center are malfunctioning and will need to be replaced at a cost of $1,000,000.
R.E. Davis Elementary School is among three schools on the list in need of HVAC replacement. However, interestingly enough, no specific amount of money was specified for this replacement.
The Athletic Renovations at R.E. Davis also include the construction of an athletic field, which includes not only a football field, but also other essential structures and additions such as press boxes; a concession stand; changing rooms for the boys and girls with restroom facilities in these areas; restroom facilities for men and women visitors to the athletic games; lockers, lighting for the athletic field, etc.
Sumter School District totally and completely disregards the fact that Mayewood Middle School ... which the district decided to close ... already has a fully functioning athletic field, used regularly for Mayewood Middle's athletic games.
Sumter School District is in a state of discombobulation and is spending money in its school closure and consolidation plans "hand over fist."
The district's mindless, runaway spending practices are for the most part recommended by and are under the advisement and scrutiny of the district's Finance Committee, which by the way, is comprised of at least four prominent business persons from the private sector of the City of Sumter and Sumter County.
Three of these aforementioned Finance Committee members divulged to me that they had never visited or toured the R.E. Davis Elementary School's facility which is going to have a host of renovations done in preparation for the Sumter School District's School Closure and School Consolidation Plans. They admitted that they were unaware of the State of South Carolina's Building Codes for Construction and Renovations at Schools.
On behalf of the Family Unit Inc., I informed these Finance Committee business persons that they personally visit and tour the schools slated for closure as well as the schools which are designated to receive the students from the newly closed, now-defunct schools.
In addition, I recommended that they research and study the "State of South Carolina's Building Codes for Construction and Renovations at Schools" ... recommending to these individuals that having such knowledge would educate them on such important issues and enable them to make informed decisions in regards to the critical state and federal laws which are brought to the forefront when engaging in school consolidation endeavors.
Sumter School District must not be granted its request for any mill increase due to its irresponsibility, lack of transparency and failure of full disclosure of its financial dealings and business transactions.
Most importantly, Sumter School District must not be granted its request for any mill increase until it rescinds its decision to close schools in rural Sumter County and reinstate the existence of Mayewood Middle and F.J. Delaine elementary schools, which are in the process of permanent closure.
Furthermore, Sumter School District must be held accountable for the substantial burdens it has inflicted upon the students who attend Mayewood Middle and F.J. Delaine elementary schools, their families and the rural communities in which they live for the district's impulsive and reprehensible actions to mindlessly and without regards to Due Process Under the Law, enforce school closure and consolidation expeditiously and without granting Equal Protection Under the Law to the citizenry adversely affected by such decisions.
Haste makes waste. Sumter School District's decision-making procedures are made in haste and without forethought or reflection. This pattern of behavior is dangerous and most worrisome, our nonprofit, charitable organization believes.
It is understandable that Sumter School District is under the "Fiscal Watch" of the South Carolina Department of Education. Its actions speak louder than any of its documents or words!
The Sumter School District's Finance Committee meetings are held in the early hours of the morning (7:45 a.m.) and are inaccessible to the majority of the parents and family members of the students of the district. This matter has been brought to the attention of the Sumter School Board of Trustees and to the Chairman of the Finance Committee, yet its committee refuses to change its meeting times to allow greater access to the community.
Sumter School District functions as if it is a private business instead of a public entity. This results in a denial of Equal Protection Under the Law for the citizenry of Sumter County whose children attend the schools of the Sumter School District.
The Family Unit Inc., as well as legal representation acting on its behalf, have submitted several inquiries to the Sumter School District's administration and Board of Trustees regarding the district's actions and decisions regarding its handling and management of financial matters. So far, the district has either been totally and completely unresponsive to the inquiries or painstakingly slow ... taking months to respond. The district's both inaction and indifference in reference to the aforementioned inquiries lead to suspicions of malfeasance and noncompliance with the rules and regulations in regards to the Freedom of Information Act.
The Family Unit Inc. is appreciative of the fact that the Sumter County Council is withholding the mill increase request of the Sumter School District until such time as the district responds with full disclosure and transparency, its handling and management of fiscal affairs of the district with competency, honesty and integrity, and within the confines of the laws of the State of South Carolina's Constitution as well as within the confines of the U.S. Constitution.
BRENDA C. WILLIAMS, MD
The Family Unit Inc., a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, charitable organization