Community leaders from various fields had the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of a principal Thursday through Sumter School District's annual Principal for the Day program.
Twenty-six professionals from local businesses and industries, the military, law enforcement, the state Legislature and other fields participated in the seventh-annual event, which offers a unique hands-on opportunity to see both the strengths and challenges of the district and helps to forge community partnerships, according to district staff.
Many leaders said they hadn't stepped into a classroom in a long time, and most said they walked away excited by what they saw.
Lefford Fate, support services director with the City of Sumter, visited Alice Drive Elementary School and Principal Suzanna Foley. He got to see Promethean boards and Chromebooks on display and in use and said he was pleased with his visit with the students, teachers and staff.
"I met a lot of kids who are very bright, articulate and polite," Fate said. "You hear a lot of negative stuff about kids today, but these were great kids, and it was a lot of fun. The teachers were happy and working hard, and it wasn't fake."
A former command chief in the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, Fate said he was amazed when he heard of many kids' favorite subjects in school.
"A lot of kids said, 'Oh, I really like math.' 'I really like science.' 'I really like history.' And these were third- and fourth-graders," Fate said. "I was like, 'I liked P.E. and lunch.' That was what I liked when I was a kid. So I loved what they were doing."
William Croft, an attorney with Curtis & Croft LLC, toured Millwood Elementary School with its principal, Cornelius Leach. Croft said his visit was eye opening and that he was thankful for the opportunity.
"Sometimes, in my daily life, I tend to get cynical, and maybe it's nice to step back and see all these children who have challenges of their own - far worse than any challenge I probably face in a regular day - but working hard and doing things with a great attitude," Croft said. "Everything was run so well and so smoothly. It helped me appreciate my own life a little bit more."
Tracy Harrington, product industrialization manager at Sumter's biggest industry, Continental Tire the Americas, spent the morning at Hillcrest Middle School in Dalzell with Principal Tarsha Staggers. He said it was nice to see all the technology in use in the classrooms and see students hone their math skills in a fun, game-like atmosphere.
Harrington said he was also able to meet a student whose father works at the Sumter plant.
"It's always nice to see some of the family that Continental is bringing into the community," Harrington said. "That's how we look at it - as one big family; so it was good."