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Sumter County Schools: Join the celebration!

It was a celebration of something new. It was an invitation to be a living and breathing piece of something vital. The community gathered at the Sumter County High School to officially cut the ribbon on 8.5.21. While the ribbon was being cut, there was a strong message Sumter County has a responsibility to keep the ties that bind strong. Education affects everyone. It is a common bond between communities and ours is no different. Poverty rates, health status, crime rates, and economic development are but a few areas education affects. The stronger the education, the better a community thrives. Where education fails, the community becomes vulnerable. Education is not something left only to those employed or elected to serve Sumter County Schools. Just as the recipe for good communities relies on big systems all the way down to individuals, so does the educational community. So, what can be done to ensure the tie that binds becomes stronger and stronger?

The message heard at the celebration was to realize we all own a piece of Sumter County Schools’ success. Dr. Torrance Choates recognized several guests, all of which are important to the health of the school. Some of the partners which have been actively ensuring our educational system is superior include city and county governments, the Sumter County Payroll Development Authority, higher education institutes, state and federal level representatives, first responders, One Sumter Foundation and private individuals who offer their talents in a countless number of ways to give legs to Ignite College and Career Academy. The challenge going forward? To have everyone supporting Sumter County Schools. Expect good things from them, have conversations with your representative on the board of education, support the people who are supporting education from administrative positions to transportation, congratulate a student who is recognized for his achievements, catch a football game, as you’re waiting behind the school bus, wave at a student coming home, but mostly, know the importance of education and treat it with as much respect as it rightfully deserves. Be a neighbor who understands your responsibility to be someone who binds together.

This project has not been a quick, simple, or lonely one. A determination was made a new high school was the best option in providing an appropriate setting for educating our students. To ensure the citizenry agreed an Education Special Purpose Local Option Tax or E-SPLOST vote was held in March of 2015. The citizens voted to go forward. The planning began, with steps taken to identify partners, a parcel of land, an architect, a builder, and eventually a design that brought many details to the forefront. Another ESPLOST vote was taken in March of 2021 and overwhelmingly passed with close to 90% of voter approval. Although the hope was Sumter County High School would be open for business as usual on the first day of school, due to labor and supply shortages, the building will occupy students on September 7, 2021. In the meanwhile, high school students will continue their virtual education. Although everyone is anxious to be in the beautiful new high school, it is presenting itself as pure excitement. The voices of those who took the microphone were seeped in the joy of something new. In addition to Dr. Choates, George Monts of Whole Truth International Ministries, Rick Barnes, Chairman of the Sumter County Board of Education, Dr. John Watford, President of South Georgia Technical College, Dr. Neal Weaver, President of Georgia Southwestern State University, Kimothy Hadley, Principal of Sumter County High School, Eshonda Blue, Chair of the Ignite CCA Board and Josh Drew, CTAE Director led the celebration. Sumter County Board of Education members who have dedicated their efforts to the project include Dr. Mike Busman, Meda Krenson, Edith Green, Alice Green, Rick Barnes, Sylvia Roland, Jim Reid, Carolyn Hamilton, Vincent Kearse, Abbis Bivins and Patricia Harris.

At half court in the gym, you will find a graphic of  a Sumter County Panther. With closer inspection, you will notice the Panther is painted upon a picture of Sumter County. It is a fitting image. It is going to take all of Sumter County to stand behind the Panthers as they go forward. Congratulations to you! You have a formidable new high school and strong partnerships to enjoy mightily. As Dr. John Watford of South Georgia Technical College, housed across the street, said, “Welcome to the neighborhood!”