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School board to name new high school

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — Among the many items on the agenda for Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Sumter County Board of Education, there was one, under new business, that immediately sparked discussion at Monday’s work session.
Rick Barnes, board vice chair, asked about the naming of the new high school during the work session. He said he doesn’t like surprises and was shocked to see the item appear on the agenda.
Sumter County Schools Superintendent Torrance Choates said they could not start the branding process until the new name is selected and that he had been involved in discussions about a new name.
“I never heard of this,” Barnes said. Board members Meda Krenson and Sylvia Roland indicated that they were unaware as well.
Board member Jim Reid said it makes sense to move to the name “Sumter County High School” since the high school will be moving into a new building.
Board member Alice Green said she has “strong concerns” about the name. “Americus is in Sumter County,” she said. “The merger wasn’t done fairly or equitably. Americus High kept its colors, mascot, alma mater, and building.” Green added that she is a “team player.”
Barnes said the only thing he is “mad” about is that he did not know about it. “I’ve been wanting to do this for four and half years,” he said.
Choates reiterated that they cannot proceed with branding plans until a new name is decided on.
Barnes went around the board table, surveying members on their feelings about it.
Roland said she likes the name Sumter County High School because “we’re educating all the students in Sumter County.”
Board chairman Dr. Mike Busman said he’s fine with the name Sumter County High because anytime anyone mentions Sumter County, Americus comes up anyway.
Board member Edith A. Green said, “the law is written for county schools in Georgia. When we merged, we took both names, the county school system and an independent school system. With the climate in the county at the time, it was a win-win. It’s been almost 12-plus years. The city school system is gone. I don’t care what we name it as long as we have a great school system.”

Alice Green remarked, “Whatever we decide, we need to stick to it.”
Barnes, who graduated from Americus High School, said he would “live and die a Panther. I’m always a Panther. I don’t care what we name it. I don’t want the community to be divided by a disagreement among adults” because that’s a waste of time.
“All things go to dust,” Edith Green said to Barnes. “I’ll spend my time on my salvation.” She said the name should use “parts from both sides of the community.”
Reid said they should continue using the Americus colors and mascot, but the name Sumter County High School reflects that it is for all.
Barnes remarked that there’s “a lot of history in the county, but it’s our decision to make (the new name).”

Edith Green said the history of the Americus and Sumter County merger should be preserved to show how we became one. Actually, the history already exists in the archives of the Americus Times-Recorder.
Choates said “it’s a good idea to keep the colors and the mascot.”
Alice Green said, “I totally disagree but educating children is my priority.”

The item will be addressed during Thursday’s meeting of the board.