Working together and selling together was the theme of Sumter School District's first-ever Realtors Luncheon held Wednesday at Cherryvale Elementary School.
Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm facilitated the midday event, which drew 41 area real …
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Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm facilitated the midday event, which drew 41 area real estate agents and related professionals and focused on the array of new academic programs soon to be implemented in the district's schools.
Hamm described the district as one that's "on the move," with its finances now headed in the right direction after a financial crisis last year and also with a renewed emphasis on academic achievement.
She briefed attendees on the district's Board of Trustees' vote last month to approve her recommendation to close two low- and declining-enrollment schools in rural parts of the county and move those students next school year into nearby, revamped magnet schools. Cherryvale Elementary will be one of those new magnet schools with a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) concentration.
Hamm emphasized principals, teachers and the district staff's commitment to the new programs and "raising the bar" in moving the district forward.
Six school administrators also talked about new academic and soft-skill initiatives being implemented, such as eight elementary and middle schools seeking STEM accreditation, 12 schools adding a college readiness program called Advancement Via Individual Determination and other schools implementing another college readiness initiative with a focus on math and science. There are currently 28 public schools in the district.
Given the variety of educational options that families have today - including public schools, private schools, homeschooling and internet-based learning - in preparing children for an increasingly competitive workplace, "we live in an era where we have to sell our schools," as one Sumter school administrator, Principal Trevor Ivey, said.
Realtors in attendance said selling Sumter County to incoming military families at Shaw Air Force Base and other families coming in with new jobs can be difficult due to the county's rural nature and often lower-performing schools in comparison to districts in the Columbia area and its suburbs, such as Kershaw County.
Hamm, who became interim superintendent on Aug. 1, 2017, and the administrators said "change is a process," but they said they felt the need to get the word out on the new happenings and new direction.
Each Realtor in attendance was given a notebook with updated profiles on each school in the district.
Realtors said they found the luncheon, which a district spokesperson said was the first of its kind to be held since public schools were consolidated into one district in 2011, informative.
Denise Wells, current president of the Sumter Board of Realtors, said she wasn't aware of all the new programs being offered in the schools and that she was impressed with the district's plans and goals.
"I think it's a great plan and initiatives," Wells said. "It's all about having the support of the staff, teachers and us, as Realtors, to work together for a common goal - a better school system."
Realtor Jay Linginfelter said he is glad to hear the district is headed in the right direction.
"It is very good for us to have this knowledge and information as a tool to take to clients who are relocating here," Linginfelter said.
Christina Scott, regional sales manager with home builder Great Southern Homes, echoed those excitements.
"I see a lot of our Shaw people choosing to live in Kershaw County because of the great schools there," Scott said. "But, I want to see Shaw people have opportunities to stay here in Sumter, and one of the things they are very interested in is the schools. Now, I'm excited because the district has such a variety of programs to offer their students. Like one of the principals said, 'we live in an era where we have to sell our schools.' And part of my role in selling homes is selling the schools. Now, the district has given me lots of tools to do that."
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