Sumter Co. School Board undergoes significant turnover after election

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Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 6:56 PM EST
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SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The leadership of the Sumter County School District is changing.

The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show there will be at least five board members elected who were not on the prior board, with the possibility of that number growing to 7.

Here are the unofficial results:

  • District 1: Board member Brian Alston appears headed to a runoff against Daniel Palumbo
  • District 2: Board member Frank Baker appears headed to a runoff against Brittany English
  • District 3: Ralph Canty Sr. appears to have won over board member John Hilton
  • District 4: Tarah Johnson and Monica Squires appeared headed to a runoff
  • District 5: Board member Shawn Ragin appears to have won
  • District 6: Board member Mac McLeod appears to have won
  • District 7: Shery Smith appears to have won over board member Gloria Lee
  • District 8: Phil Leventis and Jeff Zell appear headed to a runoff
  • District 9: Bonnie Disney appears to have won

Only board members Shawn Ragin and Mac McLeod have so far reclaimed seats, with the potential for Frank Baker and Brian Alston to join them.

The election marked the first time the school board operated with nine single-member districts, and all were on the ballot.

Disney said the election indicates voters wanted change and the new board will need to focus on retaining quality teachers.

She said that begins in part with reining in issues with discipline.

“We know we need to support those teachers and that means not allowing chaos in the form of discipline to be occurring in the hallways and in the classrooms,” she said.

The district’s state report card shows only 70.7 percent of the teachers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the behavior rules are enforced at the school.

District 3 winner Ralph Canty Sr. said the board will need to focus on the district’s lagging test scores. Sumter County Schools is below the state average in math and English testing.

“The main issue was the need I think for the board to reimagine public education,” he said.

Ragin echoed both Canty and Disney and added that the board will need to work on teacher pay as well.

“I feel like I can work with any board member that comes without a personal agenda. I will be willing and ready, and if they’re coming just like I’m coming with a mindset to work for the children, then we’re not going to have an issue at all. So I believe that those folks that are joining the board that are considered new, will be coming and if they’re coming with the right mindset then we’re going to have a good time,” he said.

The run-off elections for the four remaining seats will be on Nov. 22.

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