First, I want to thank Sumter Item, editor and staff for allowing Sumter residents to express their opinions by publishing all letters that meet the standards in the opinion page. I was not only offended by and I was taken aback with the articles in the Feb. 3, 2024, weekend edition.
I have written letters to the editor as far back as 2011 about the school district consolidation. My most recent letter was published on July 19, 2022, about the superintendent.
I guess the honeymoon is over; Dr. Wright came to Sumter and was given a lot of assurances by the previous and current board members. It is safe to say that this is why he accepted the position. He now knows who is really concerned about the children's education in Sumter. I am compelled to now write about racism, pay and the future of our children's education in Sumter.
When a person says that race is not a factor, they are affirming that they are a racist, which is OK; you just cannot discriminate when it comes to public money. The Sumter school system does a great job educating about 40% of the students. The problem is the other 60% are mostly getting a certificate of attendance. The U.S. News and World Report ranked South Carolina at 42 of the 50 states, which is the bottom 16%. Yet some of our students are accepted in colleges and universities.
It was reported that three schools were unsatisfactory, but it was not reported that the other schools were rated below average in academics. Sumter High and Crestwood have been rated below average for more than 10 years and before COVID-19. I cannot understand how a so-called community leader can go out to see the conditions the children have to endure at the R.E. Davis Sport Field, yet some of the players made the county All-Area team.
Dr. Wright saw the unsafe and unsanitary conditions and did something about it. And the board accuses him of being insubordinate, WOW! The so-called leaders see the poor report card given by the S.C. Department of Education and say or do nothing to improve the condition for our children.
It was disturbing to bring up an individual's pay. The superintendent falls behind Sumter city's manager and ahead of Sumter County administrator in pay; they all have salaries that are more than Congressmen Clyburn and Wilson not counting Congress members' supplement pay.
The city manager oversees an $80 million-plus budget, and the county administrator oversees a budget which is over $50 million. The superintendent oversees a $160 million-plus budget and is responsible for the safety and education of over 13,000 students and 2,000 employees. I think he is being underpaid. Is the problem that you think he does not deserve or should not make that amount of money? And race is not a factor? It is safe to say that no one on the current board has ever managed a $160 million budget, or over 15,000 individuals in their career. Yet the board members do not want to utilize the superintendent's experience and subject matter expertise. There is only one person on the school board with experience in running a school. Please fact checkers, correct me if I am wrong.
I hope The Item will allow me to help people understand how a charter school operates. Under S.C. Code of Law Title 59, A charter school is a public school and with an agreement with the local school district can use the services of that district. Example, if the local school district has a program, a charter school student can attend that program. South Carolina law does not provide that for a private school. The charter school has the right of first refusal to any unused public-school property. School districts across the state will use a vacant school for storage rather than allowing a charter school to use the facility. A charter school signs a five-year agreement with the sponsoring district. Example, if you open the charter school in 2020 the contract ends in 2025, the charter school has the option not to renew with that sponsor, fall under another school district or change to a private school. The question is, who owns the school property, the state or the charter school? Sumter School District never wanted to sponsor a charter school in the past 10 years.
In conclusion, I was concerned that none of the three articles mentioned that I estimate that some 5,000 to 10,000 students will be coming to Sumter County in the next five to seven years as Shaw Air Force Base and Third Army grows. So let us stop with this oneupmanship and put kids first and have no child left behind. The current school board members told the voters they knew how to improve our schools. They took office January 2023 and as of this date they are still in the planning stage and refuse to use Dr. Wright's recommendations. How many of our children have to go without a high school diploma or fail the military entrance exam and Work Keys test before a change is made in our children's education? All concerned citizens and so-called community leaders should show up at the next board meeting.
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