It took 25 years and the South Carolina Legislature to accomplish it, but two former Sumter County public school districts are now one.
Sumter School District was officially established in July 2011 following the consolidation of the former Sumter County School District Two and Sumter School District 17. A total of 17,000 students make up the new unified district.
“Things are going well so far, but like any other merger, there are some obstacles and issues that need to be worked out,” says Randolph Bynum, Sumter School District superintendent. “But I have visited every school and am impressed with the quality of teachers and learning that is occurring, and we’ll be taking the best teaching practices and making them available throughout the district.”
No School Falls Behind
Bynum says the consolidation ensures that all schools in Sumter County get the same basic funding, with no school falling behind due to revenue collection issues.
“We are taking the strengths in resources and human capital from the two districts and combining them positively into one,” he says. “The result will be improved student achievement and raising the county’s overall quality of life, which could result in new industries taking a look at Sumter for future business ventures. In fact, one of my goals is to have many of our graduates eventually work for international companies, with some of those companies hopefully based in Sumter some day.”
Eight Years a Soldier
Bynum has been an academic advocate for decades, with 26 years of education experience that included serving as associate superintendent for high schools in Atlanta for three years prior to the Sumter County appointment. He also spent eight years in the United States Army, which can be advantageous in this community that is home to Shaw Air Force Base and the Third Army, 9th Air Force and USCENTAF.
Bynum, who signed a three-year contract to be district superintendent, also arrived with a strong reputation for turning around and improving student achievement scores in every school and district where he worked in the past.
“We are all stakeholders in our children’s future, so I want to develop an effective community relations initiative for Sumter School District that provides current, timely internal and external communication through district publications and communication venues,” he says. “We need to keep the public updated and seek their feedback on how we can get better.”
Bynum says he also wants to create and coordinate programs to increase employee and student morale, and insists that principals and assistant principals must conduct four to six classroom visits per month. He also wants to establish a not-for-profit Sumter Education Foundation to ensure that all students are prepared to live, work and compete in tomorrow's challenging workplace.
“All donations to the Foundation would go directly back into the schools,” he says. “They would offer the greatest amount of assistance to the teachers, in order to provide better instruction for the students. That’s what it’s all about.”
Read more on education in Sumter, SC.