I am greatly disappointed to read in The Sumter Item, on Jan. 22-25, 2024, about an issue that should have been resolved years ago. Let's be honest. To put the blame on Dr. William Wright, current superintendent of Sumter School District, about circumstances surrounding the building of a football facility for R.E. Davis College Preparatory Academy is blatant scapegoating by the SSD Board of Trustees.
The numerous problems resulting from the consolidation of Mayewood Middle School (the best academic-performing middle school in SSD) with R.E. Davis Elementary School (a Priority One Failing School) were openly discussed on several occasions. These meetings occurred at the Eastern Community Center next to R.E. Davis CPA in County Council District 7, which I represent.
The meetings, in the summer of 2018, were facilitated by county councilman Carlton B. Washington. Attending these meetings were former SSD Superintendent Dr. Martin-Knox, trustee Chairwoman Barbara Jackson, trustees Baker and Alston, county councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney, Pastor Alfreda Johnson, Ms. Elizabeth Kilgore, president Sumter NAACP and over 30 concerned citizens. During these meetings, the use of the money (estimated at $400,000) to build a new football facility on a selected location was discussed. However, when the state health department determined that the land for the football facility was unsuitable, all efforts to build the football facility was curtailed by the SSD Board of Trustees. My recommendation to upgrade and renovate the football facility at Mayewood Middle School was rejected by the SSD trustees. Why?
There were rumors in the community that Mayewood School wanted to be purchased by other educational entities. Also, the new chairman of the trustees' Finance Committee said the building of the football facility was a "dead issue" and funds should be reallocated in the SSD budget, creating further confusion about the allocated funds. Stop blaming Dr. Wright for the poor decisions made by past and present SSD Board of Trustees.
Cease the infighting. The Sumter Legislative Delegation and four members of Sumter County Council negatively impact your budget because you lack fiscal autonomy. That's your fight.
EUGENE R. BATEN, LMSW
Sumter County Council, District 7
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