Ex-Sumter County educator: "We are at a breaking point." - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Ex-Sumter County educator: "We are at a breaking point."

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SUMTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

Disappointment was the mood in Sumter Monday night for many parents and staff members in the Sumter County School District who were seeking solutions to ongoing issues.

Just after a public comment, the school district's Board of Trustees voted to end their meeting, pushing off the rest of the agenda items to Thursday night.

The public has been very vocal about their discontent with the district and that only intensified when the meeting was ended abruptly.

Many said that putting off the rest of the meeting only further perpetuated the lack of confidence people have with the school board.

Dozens of teachers have left the district -- with more than 40 from Sumter High School alone.

There is a definite sense of discontent and anxiousness for change. More specifically, they want new leadership.

"I want the board, as I e-mailed them, I want them to be bold," said parent Tammy Soles. "I want them to be courageous, to do the right thing by the children of Sumter, and I want them to terminate this contract and find someone who is going to stand and represent our school system and our community."

Soles is one of many parents who showed up Monday night along with teachers -- some who left the district -- and others who say they are struggling to stay because of low teacher morale, a lack of discipline in the classroom, and conflicts over testing and evaluation standards.

"There were schedule changes, we weren't given calendars in advance, calendars were changed, policies weren't followed through, students weren't seen for discipline issues, it was just crazy," said former teacher Nancy Hart.

Hart says her decision to leave the district was for the best given the current turmoil. Another complaint among teachers is being transferred without just cause, which they say is at the expense of students.

"If the teachers are not being taken care of, it filters down into the classroom," said Soles. "It can't help, they are human beings, so my concern is we continue to lose excellent teachers."

The frustration could be felt in the auditorium as the crowd applauded speakers who voiced concern on behalf of their children and about the direction the district is taking.

"The teachers don't want a divisive district," said Luther Barnett from the Sumter Schools Education Association. "We want to see everyone heal and we want to be able to focus on our jobs and that's educating our kids."

When the board voted to end the meeting without making a decision as to whether Superintendent Randolph Bynum would be staying or if any other changes would be made, the audience stood and vocally objected, saying the board is putting off the inevitable. The board members simply walked off the stage without making another comment.

"We are at a breaking point," said Hart. "We need to decide where we're going."

The board plans to meet again Thursday at 6 p.m. at the district office, a substantially smaller venue than Monday's meeting at Lakewood High School.

We have not been told if a decision will be made at that meeting, but parents and teacher and students are hopeful change happens before the start of the school year.

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