Parent’s email to board gets ‘disturbing’ response - - Columbia, South Carolina

Parent’s email to board gets ‘disturbing’ response

(Source: Sumter Item) (Source: Sumter Item)

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - One Sumter parent received a “disturbing” email in an attempt to get an answer to a paid advertisement in a Midlands newspaper.

In the Dec. 2 edition of The (Sumter) Item, the Rev. Ralph Canty Sr. paid for a full-page advertisement, which started by thanking Sumter voters for re-electing him for another term on the school board. The remainder of the letter supported his argument that low teacher morale in Sumter School District is not unique to the area, but something that is seen in other larger districts, like Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

“As a board member, I have been very, very concerned about the issues being raised in reference to teacher morale,” Canty told WIS on Friday. “So I did a study on the issue around the country…I discovered that teacher morale is not an issue peculiar to Sumter. It’s a nationwide issue.”

Aside from Canty’s opinion on teacher morale and his findings, he wrapped up the advertisement with the Sumter School District seal in the bottom left corner of the full page.

Tammi Soles, who is a school district parent, sent the Sumter School District Board of Trustees an email Friday morning asking board members if the paid advertisement, since it contained the district seal,was the opinion of all board members. The response Soles got from Canty was unexpected.

Canty replied to Soles’ email, including all board members in his response, stating that everything he said was “on the record” and he stands firmly behind everything he wrote.

“Obviously, there are some folk(s) who misunderstand my role as a board member,” Canty wrote in the email. “I have not subjugated my right of ‘FREE SPEECH’ because I sit on the board. I would dare not speak for the board without the authority of the board; but I do not need the board's authority to write or express whatever I feel like writing and ‘PAYING’ for out of my personal coffers. So, whenever anyone ask(s) about something I said or did you shouldn't have to entertain the discussion.”

Canty continued to state that the board must not let a “few” people “derail” their efforts in their newly consolidated school district.

However, Sole said one sentence offended her beyond any other in Canty’s email: “I have such a problem with questions that spring forth from obvious retardation but to squelch the matter I will address it,” Canty wrote.

“I definitely didn’t expect to have him say all those things,” Soles said, adding she interpreted his email as calling her retarded for asking the board a question. “It was quite disturbing. All I wanted to know is if they agreed with his opinion.” 

Canty told WIS on Friday that he was not speaking to Soles in the email.

“She is not the only person who has brought up the issue,” Canty said, in regards to the school seal being used in his paid advertisement.

Aside from Canty’s response, Soles also received an email from Chairman Keith Schultz and board member Karen Michalik.

“The board did not approve this advertisement,” Schultz wrote. “I clearly can say that Mr. Canty does not speak for the whole board.”

Michalik said Canty’s advertisement was “a sole endeavor.”

“The board had no hand in it,” she wrote. “As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know he was doing it until I saw it in the paper. Canty certainly has the right to voice his opinion, and he did so via The Item. I cannot and I do not speak for other members, but I want to be very clear, I DO NOT share Canty’s opinion. Furthermore, for me personally, I thought it to be an improper use of the District logo.”

Moving forward, Soles hopes Schultz talks to Canty about his advertisement and email reply to her.

“I think he needs to be addressed by the chairman of the board,” Soles said, adding Canty was “very condescending in the newspaper.”

The Sumter School District Board of Trustees has a scheduled board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the district office.

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