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Speaker taken into closed session

By Michael Murray

AMERICUS — The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) met for its monthly work session on Monday at the Sumter County School Central Office.
With a packed house at the meeting, the board entered into a closed session after hearing commentary from one citizen and discussing several issues on the agenda.
DeRienda Johnson, who was scheduled to address the board, was invited to join the board members for a portion of the closed session, apparently to discuss an undisclosed personnel matter. No comment was made when the board members returned to the open session to close the meeting.
Prior to the board’s closed session, the board was addressed by Jerry Sanders, who introduced himself as an assistant principal at an un-named school in the Webster County system.
Sanders stated that he had previously withdrawn one of his sons from the Sumter County School System, though he still has one child enrolled at Sumter County Primary School.
Sanders advised the board that he intends to re-enroll his child in the Sumter County School System, though he has some concerns about doing so.
Sanders opened his comments by commending Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) principal, Kimothy Hadley, and an un-named former administrator at Sumter County Intermediate School (SCIS), for their successes at exceeding the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) expectations.
He stated that ASHS’ CCRPI score had improved 1.6 points since last year’s results, which were up over 14 points from the previous year. He went on to say that SCIS had shown greater improvement in the CCRPI, by nearly 10 points, than the system’s other middle school.
Sanders stated that these administrators who “beat the odds” deserve commendation.
He went on to state that, according to his research, only 26 percent of the system’s third graders are reading at grade level. He said that more attention needs to be paid to potential issues at the primary school level to ensure that students are adequately prepared to enter elementary school and continue to progress at a steady pace.
“That school is the foundation … of this system. If that school is not successful, the elementary school is not going to be successful … the intermediate school is not going to be successful … the high school is not going to be successful … We need to look at the primary school …,” he said.
He encouraged the board members to assess the primary school’s data and identify areas where improvements can be made.
Following Sanders’ address, board member Jim Reid gave the board a financial update. Board member Alice Green led a discussion on potential changes to the system’s insurance policies to ensure that the system would not be held liable if an accident occurred when someone is renting a school facility. She also led the board in discussions of potential changes to the dress code and potential measures to prevent disruptions from student cell phone use during school hours.
Superintendent, Torrance Choates, Ed.D., led the board in a discussion of the calendar for the upcoming school year before discussing the system’s existing contract with the ombudsman program.
Choates recommended that the system fulfill the remainder of its two-year contract with the program. He stated that, in light of past issues with the ombudsman program, the organization’s director had offered to take $60,000 off the price of the contract for the upcoming year. He went on to say that the organization had offered to take $40,000 off the contract price for the 2018-19 school year to make up for previous inadequacies in the program.
The board’s regular monthly meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in the administrative offices at 100 Learning Lane, and is open to the public.