In Sumter County public schools the philosophy is that "every child can learn!" However, this is not without some challenges. In fact, it was just a year ago that at least one of the district's schools was being threatened by being taken over by the state because of lagging test scores and another was faced with school violence when a student was stabbed to death on campus. However, how time can bring about a change!
According to new test results, not only did all schools except one in the district rank by state standards as having made "adequate yearly progress, but North Sumter and Kinterbish Junior High even scored at the national average on much of the SAT-9 testing. Also, as for York West End Jr. High which was facing a take over from the state last year, records show last year it achieved 12 of its 13 set goals.
Although these achievements are good administrators say there is room for further improvement and that's why plans are being made to make the district more efficient by consolidating the county's two high schools.
Within the next five years officials say the new high school will be located somewhere between the county's two largest towns, York and Livingston. With talks ongoing about purchasing land, we're told that exactly where the school will be located could be determined by the end of the school year.
"I think we are taking taxpayers dollars and using those dollars to the best of our ability, " says Superintendent Lula Larkin. "Because of finances, it's difficult to operate two small high schools within 10 miles of each other."
Superintendent Larkin says the consolidation will ultimately help the district offer more courses and activities which it now cannot afford.
Meanwhile, with 95 percent of the district's students graduating and a projected rate of less than four percent dropping out, officials say it's not the school system that is scaring industries from the area.
"We're trying to get industry to come but it's just a stigma that the state and the nation have on this area known as the Black Belt," says Larkin. "We have intelligent people here. We have people here who are trainable. If they will only locate here and give us an opportunity we can show them what we can do."
As for the future of the district, Larkin says.
"I know that things will bet better and they are getting better!"