Students, parents defend Sumter High teachers at board meeting - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Students, parents defend Sumter High teachers at board meeting

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The Sumter School District has recently come under fire for its testing practices at Sumter High School. SLED has even been called in to investigate.

Students and parents showed up in large numbers at the school board meeting to express their concern with how the district is being run and how the teachers are being treated.

"It's terrible to see them just walk out the door," said recent graduate Blake Ward. "Some of the best teachers are just gone."

Ward says he's spoken to many of his teachers at length. He says their overall sentiments are not feeling appreciated, being forced to retire, or being transferred to other schools.

At Monday's board meeting, many wore yellow ribbons in silent support.

"Many retire, some early, many just get out and go somewhere else and it's a huge teacher morale issue," said Ward.

Lance Foxworth graduated from Sumter High this year. He spoke to board members about a petition 560 students signed.

"We listed our concerns that we had this year including lack of discipline, poor safety, not following state protocol for emergency procedures," said Foxworth.

Foxworth presented that petition with two possible solutions.

"To replace the principal at Sumter High School and to ask the district to reverse the decision to forcefully retire or transfer the teachers out of Sumter High School," Foxworth said.

Sumter High principal Sterling Harris was at the meeting but he would not comment on camera.

Parents at the meeting also want to see a change.

"I want to thank the State Department of Education and SLED for competent oversight in our testing and make sure the board knows we're holding you accountable," said parent Nicole Williams.

Williams also read part of the statement written by 16-year-old rising senior Paige Huffman about the teachers at Sumter High.

"They should not be forced to leave their positions," said Williams. "They should not be afraid to voice their opinions. They should not be punished for situations out of their control. The job of the administration is to better the learning environment and experience of a school, not dismantle it."

At the meeting, superintendent Randolph Bynum said he would not comment on the exit testing problems until the SLED investigation is complete.

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