Sumter County residents worried about the state of the Sumter School District will have a small window of time to express their concerns to the district’s Board of Trustees during what is expected to be a highly-attended board meeting Monday night.
According to the meeting’s agenda released by the school district, public participation will be opened before the Board of Trustees enter into executive session, but after they have received reports both from Superintendent Dr. Frank Baker and financial consultant Scott Allan.
At their last meeting, Allan told board members he expected the school district would need to apply for a $20-$22 million loan via a tax anticipation note before June. The financial consultant, hired after an audit revealed a $6.2 million shortfall in December, also said he should be able to report in further details what his analysis found to be the cause of the financial crisis. That report is expected to come Monday.
Since the last meeting, Baker has facing the district. In this exclusive report of his comments at a recent Sumter NAACP meeting, Baker said the district’s current financial crisis stems from bookkeeping issues dating back to district consolidation and that additional personnel cuts would likely be needed in the near future to remedy the issue. Baker also told the group he was aware of an effort being organized by a group of local black ministers attempting to have him removed from office.
These past events have led the district to Monday’s meeting, during which the trustees will hold an executive session which, if recent meetings are any indication, will be lengthy.
In addition to the standard items listed for discussion during the trustees’ executive session – namely individual student matters and personnel reports, which appear on virtually every agenda – the board will also consider “Discussion of Employment of Employees, Discussion of Negotiations Incident to Proposed Contractual Arrangements, and Possible Receipt of Legal Advice Relating to Potential Claims, all Concerning the Financial Condition of the District Disclosed in the FY 2016 Audit.”
After their behind-closed-doors session the board will return to open session to publicly vote on any issues coming out of the private discussions.
Rules established by the board in the past limit the public comment session, which will be immediately before the executive session, to 15 minutes, and no individual speaker is typically permitted to speak more than three minutes. In addition, the chairman has the flexibility to limit any discussion on any one topic, so that, they say, they can “provide individuals the opportunity to be heard on a variety of topics.”
As they have established in the past, the board will not permit public speakers to make any complaints about any specific board member or district personnel, and at past meetings have cut off speakers attempting to do so.
A sign-in sheet will be available before the board meeting, and anyone wishing to speak will be required to sign their name on the sheet, check the box on the sign-in sheet for public participation, and complete a card providing information regarding their concerns prior to the start of the meeting. Board policies require all speakers must have completed the process before the start of the meeting.
The next Sumter School District Board of Trustees meeting will be at Wilder Elementary School, located at 975 S. Main St. in Sumter. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.