Knighton gives an improving report on academics as students return to class

Published 12:07 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

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The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) met Thursday night, February 10, 2022, for their regular voting meeting. In opening the meeting, Superintendent Walter Knighton presented on a few topics. The Sumter County Schools had roughly 3568 students when the school year started out. Today SCS has 3646 students enrolled. Knighton states this increase is “very, very exciting for us as we continue to increase the numbers of students who are matriculating here in the Sumter County Schools.” Knighton also reports the number of virtually learning students has decreased from 568 to 210. Knighton remarks on the importance of seeing this number diminish as “In person learning is very, very essential for students in terms of academic success.” Although they are seeing some success with virtual learning, Knighton adds, “there is nothing like being in person with teachers having hands-on opportunities to work with students.”  Knighton also presented an academic report which compared last school year’s first semester standings to this school year’s first semester standings in “core content.” Last year the students were in a virtual only learning mode, while this year they were given an opportunity for in person learning. Reading scores improved by 11% with students improving from a 65% pass rate to a 76% pass rate. English language arts have improved by 15% with 80% passing, whereas last year only 65% were passing. Math saw the least improvement with a 6% improved from 70% to 76% pass rate. The largest improvement was science which improved by 21%, with 83% of students passing, whereas last year at this time only 62% were passing. Social studies pass rates have increased from 68% to 78% indicating 10% more students are passing. Knighton reports work will continue with the students as the mission of the school is to provide an equitable education and graduate the students college and career ready.

After acknowledging staff and students, the meeting moved on to committee reports. Curriculum committee, chaired by Sylvia Roland, recommended procuring a math curriculum for grades 2 through 8 and it was approved unanimously. All of the typical finance reports were approved unanimously, as was the recommendation made by finance committee chair, Rick Barnes. However, under finance reports, the non-certified salary scales were requested to be unfrozen. This vote passed 5-1 with Abbis Bivins voting against unfreezing the salary scales. All personnel recommendations were approved unanimously to include the hiring of a new head football coach. Clifford Fedd has been chosen to serve in this capacity. Under policy committee, chaired by Abbis Bivins, there was some confusion about a vote on Policy BBC to be placed on the agenda next month. The second recommendation was to accept an amendment to an administrative policy regarding Protection of Pupil Rights. This passed unanimously. Moving on to property, chair Vincent Kearse recommended the Sumter County High School Close-out Resolution be approved. The vote was 5-1, with Abbis Bivins not approving. Flooring recommendation, option 3 was passed with a 5-1 vote, with Barnes not approving. The plat survey for the lift station property was unanimously approved.

Under new business, after following procedure for placing a new District 3 representative, Edward F. Jackson, Jr. was the only candidate to qualify for the seat. This vote passed unanimously. A partnership agreement between the Board of Regents for University System of Georgia on behalf of Valdosta State University and Sumter County for field experience and clinicals was approved unanimously. Field site affiliation agreement between Walden University and SCS for field experience placements passed unanimously. Although a memorandum of understanding between SCS and Albany Area Primary Care to provide a school-based health clinic was on the agenda, the BOE received information in which they hadn’t had a chance to review, and the item was tabled until March.

A topic which brought forth much conversation at the work session was brought up next. Dissolving the six committee meetings in which the BOE prepares their recommendations for the board at large came under consideration. Three of the six committee require approximately an hour to complete. The remaining three committee meetings can take as long as three hours to complete. After much work to determine the most appropriate recommendation, the committee chair brings the recommendations for the BOE to take action upon by voting. Carolyn Hamilton, who submitted the item to the agenda, introduce the voting item expressing a willingness to “entertain a motion as to whether to dissolve our committee meetings or not.” Roland moved to “keep our committees” and Barnes provided the second. The vote split 3-3 with Roland, Barnes and Kearse voting in favor to keep the committee meetings and Hamilton, Bivins and Harris voting against the motion. As Hamilton states it, “the motion fails because we don’t have a majority at this time, so we will keep our committees until something changes.”

One item which had been added to the voting agenda on work session night was to redo the Sumter County High School dedication plaque as Abbis Bivins was not in favor of the placement location of Dr. Torrance Choates’ name. She also wanted to add Walter Knighton’s name to the plaque. The item had been deleted from the agenda prior to the meeting. Another topic which was not brought forth for further discussion was Abbis Bivins’ desire to have a SCS provided cell phone.

Announcements were made, with the work session date being set as Monday, March 7, 2022, at 6pm and the regular meeting to take place on Thursday, March 10, 2022, at 7pm. The meeting may be seen in person at 100 Learning Lane, or via Facebook. This meeting, as well as others can be found archived on the Sumter County Schools’ Facebook page under the same name.