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Citizen group wants ‘Americus’ in new high school name

By Beth Alston

 

AMERICUS — A group of concerned citizens attended Monday’s work session of the Sumter County Board of Education. Their spokesperson, Americus City Council member and retired educator Juanita Wilson, was on the agenda to address the board.

When Wilson took the floor, she asked that those in the audience in support of her request, to stand with her as she made her case.

“Sumter County Board of Education and (Superintendent) Dr. (Torrance) Choates, I asked to come tonight because in 1995, Victoria Harris and I worked tirelessly to help merge the Sumter County School system. She was the principal of Sumter High; I was the principal of Americus High at that time. We worked to preserve the history of both of those high schools. In working with that, one of the words that we emphasized was unity. I stand before you today and ask you to consider the unity of Americus and Sumter County. If you will look at the population of Sumter County, … look at the makeup, Americus city holds most of the population. We’re asking you to consider naming the (new high) school Americus-Sumter so that we can continue to preserve that history.

“Ya’ll, a name is an important thing. In my visit to the Georgia Dome, after they had completed it, they have on a wall all of the State Championships. They do not have ‘Americus.’ They have ‘Americus-Sumter.’ It’s a strong name. And I beg you to please consider naming the new high school Americus-Sumter. Thank you.”

The members in support of Wilson’s request were disgruntled at the end of the meeting, expressing exasperation that the matter was not discussed by the board again. The item would have to be brought back up by a board member who would make a motion to add it to the agenda and then voted on. That did not occur Monday.

The board voted unanimously to name the new school Sumter County High School at its Dec. 13, 2018, regular meeting. But that was after much discussion during the Dec. 10 work session. At that meeting, 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.”

Board co-chair Rick Barnes went around the board table, surveying members on their feelings about it. Board member Sylvia 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.”

Edith Green said the history of the Americus and Sumter County merger should be preserved to show how the two systems 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.”

Alice Green also 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. 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).”

Rusty Whaley, an Americus graduate, told the Times-Recorder outside the meeting that he is seeking to get at least 1,000 signatures on a petition titled “Save the Americus Name Petition” which states, “We the undersigned do not agree to allow taking the name Americus from the name of the future high school in Sumter County, Georgia.”

Whaley said he now has about 120 signatures. Anyone who wants to sign it can contact him at 404-379-6403.

In other business on the agenda, IT director Mike Wilson told the board that he and Natascha Merritt, school system finance director, had applied for and received a grant for $210,000 for the schools. Each school will receive $30,000 to improve school safety and security. Wilson said six of the school’s intercom systems will be upgraded, and Sumter County Middle School’s system will be completely replaced. He said there will be a panic phone in each school’s office and panic buttons in each of the schools which will lock down the school in the event of a security breach. The new systems can also be programmed online. The board will consider accepting the grant at Thursday’s meeting.

Americus City Manager Charles Coney address the board about providing 25 high school students free tickets to attend and volunteer at the Japan Fest in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 21. He said the students will have the opportunity to be completely immersed in Japanese culture as “prestigious” volunteers. They will volunteer for three hours and then use the rest of the time to visit the exhibits, etc.

Finance committee chair, Jim Reid, gave the financial report which will be up for approval at Thursday’s meeting. He reported that the system has approximately $8.4 million in the General Fund. The system received $336,619 in August from SPLOST revenues, averaging $316,884 per month. He also reported that the system school nutrition department has about $1.5 million in its checking account and a net worth of about $1.5 million.

Barnes, chairman of the personnel committee, reported that the superintendent has been directed to proceed with recruitment efforts to get more math teachers in the system by using supplements, signing bonuses, etc.

Meda Krenson, property committee chair, said the superintendent is being directed to ascertain the fair market value of the former Sarah Cobb School building, which now houses Furlow Charter School (FCS). FCS is taking steps to become a state chartered school and wants to purchase the building from Sumter County Schools.

In addition to considering several personnel matters at Thursday’s meeting, the board also added the power proposal matter to the agenda. Both Georgia Power and Sumter EMC had made presentations earlier this school year on the new high school complex. Barnes said more information had been requested and received, and once board members have read it, they can proceed with more discussion and make a decision.

Another item on Thursday’s agenda is renewal of the copier lease agreement which was tabled from last month.

By Beth Alston

 

AMERICUS — A group of concerned citizens attended Monday’s work session of the Sumter County Board of Education. Their spokesperson, Americus City Council member and retired educator Juanita Wilson, was on the agenda to address the board.

When Wilson took the floor, she asked that those in the audience in support of her request, to stand with her as she made her case.

“Sumter County Board of Education and (Superintendent) Dr. (Torrance) Choates, I asked to come tonight because in 1995, Victoria Harris and I worked tirelessly to help merge the Sumter County School system. She was the principal of Sumter High; I was the principal of Americus High at that time. We worked to preserve the history of both of those high schools. In working with that, one of the words that we emphasized was unity. I stand before you today and ask you to consider the unity of Americus and Sumter County. If you will look at the population of Sumter County, … look at the makeup, Americus city holds most of the population. We’re asking you to consider naming the (new high) school Americus-Sumter so that we can continue to preserve that history.

“Ya’ll, a name is an important thing. In my visit to the Georgia Dome, after they had completed it, they have on a wall all of the State Championships. They do not have ‘Americus.’ They have ‘Americus-Sumter.’ It’s a strong name. And I beg you to please consider naming the new high school Americus-Sumter. Thank you.”

The members in support of Wilson’s request were disgruntled at the end of the meeting, expressing exasperation that the matter was not discussed by the board again. The item would have to be brought back up by a board member who would make a motion to add it to the agenda and then voted on. That did not occur Monday.

The board voted unanimously to name the new school Sumter County High School at its Dec. 13, 2018, regular meeting. But that was after much discussion during the Dec. 10 work session. At that meeting, 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.”

Board co-chair Rick Barnes went around the board table, surveying members on their feelings about it. Board member Sylvia 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.”

Edith Green said the history of the Americus and Sumter County merger should be preserved to show how the two systems 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.”

Alice Green also 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. 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).”

Rusty Whaley, an Americus graduate, told the Times-Recorder outside the meeting that he is seeking to get at least 1,000 signatures on a petition titled “Save the Americus Name Petition” which states, “We the undersigned do not agree to allow taking the name Americus from the name of the future high school in Sumter County, Georgia.”

Whaley said he now has about 120 signatures. Anyone who wants to sign it can contact him at 404-379-6403.

In other business on the agenda, IT director Mike Wilson told the board that he and Natascha Merritt, school system finance director, had applied for and received a grant for $210,000 for the schools. Each school will receive $30,000 to improve school safety and security. Wilson said six of the school’s intercom systems will be upgraded, and Sumter County Middle School’s system will be completely replaced. He said there will be a panic phone in each school’s office and panic buttons in each of the schools which will lock down the school in the event of a security breach. The new systems can also be programmed online. The board will consider accepting the grant at Thursday’s meeting.

Americus City Manager Charles Coney address the board about providing 25 high school students free tickets to attend and volunteer at the Japan Fest in Atlanta on Saturday, Sept. 21. He said the students will have the opportunity to be completely immersed in Japanese culture as “prestigious” volunteers. They will volunteer for three hours and then use the rest of the time to visit the exhibits, etc.

Finance committee chair, Jim Reid, gave the financial report which will be up for approval at Thursday’s meeting. He reported that the system has approximately $8.4 million in the General Fund. The system received $336,619 in August from SPLOST revenues, averaging $316,884 per month. He also reported that the system school nutrition department has about $1.5 million in its checking account and a net worth of about $1.5 million.

Barnes, chairman of the personnel committee, reported that the superintendent has been directed to proceed with recruitment efforts to get more math teachers in the system by using supplements, signing bonuses, etc.

Meda Krenson, property committee chair, said the superintendent is being directed to ascertain the fair market value of the former Sarah Cobb School building, which now houses Furlow Charter School (FCS). FCS is taking steps to become a state chartered school and wants to purchase the building from Sumter County Schools.

In addition to considering several personnel matters at Thursday’s meeting, the board also added the power proposal matter to the agenda. Both Georgia Power and Sumter EMC had made presentations earlier this school year on the new high school complex. Barnes said more information had been requested and received, and once board members have read it, they can proceed with more discussion and make a decision.

Another item on Thursday’s agenda is renewal of the copier lease agreement which was tabled from last month.