Search for Sumter superintendents continues with community focus groups

Many focus group participants still wonder why the current superintendent is not being offered a contract extension.

SUMTER, SC — The search for a new Sumter School District superintendent continued Wednesday with focus groups to hear the community’s perspective.

It comes after current superintendent Dr. Penelope Martin-Knox announced her decision not to seek a contract extension and the school board voted not to offer her one.

Sumter High School was one of three locations where the focus groups took place in front of a handful of attendees.

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Tia McDuffie, who has a student in the district, called the meeting a “show”, adding that she believed the council ultimately wouldn’t accept comments.

“I think the board has pretty much made up its mind what it’s going to do, and I think it’s just a formality,” McDuffie said. “We have a surplus now. When she came here, we had millions of dollars in debt. So I don’t know what more the board could ask for.”

The Sumter School District has had four superintendents, including interims, since 2011.

School board member Dr. John Hilton was present, but declined to comment.

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The board is working with the SC School Boards Association to conduct the research.

Judy LeGrand, one of the association’s research coordinators, says they held meetings with community leaders, businesses and school staff to help with the research, and generated some interest in the position since the search opened on January 27.

“The purpose of these meetings is to gather information so that we can share it with the board and they can use that information to help them come up with a list of characteristics and qualities for the next superintendent,” LeGrand said. “We announce the opening and gather the nominations, we do background checks…and then we introduce the group of candidates to the board.”

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She says they could have a new superintendent chosen by May.

Those interested in commenting on the process can do so by emailing [email protected] or by completing a survey on the Sumter School District website.

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