Mayewood Middle School will reopen next school year after Sumter School District’s Board of Trustees voted Monday night to reverse a decision it made less than a year ago to close it.
The 6-2 vote with one abstention was made by a board that saw a five-person turnover in the November midterm election. Mayewood was closed at the end of last school year due to what the district said was low enrollment and a way to save money.
After coming out of executive session behind closed doors about 10 p.m., new trustee Sherril Ray, who represents Area 2, made a motion to rescind the school’s closure and for it to be open for the upcoming year beginning in August.
In the split vote, the full board passed the motion with Ray, Area 1’s Brian Alston, at-large member Frank Baker, Area 7’s Barbara Jackson, Area 5’s the Rev. Daryl McGhaney and Area 3’s Matthew “Mac” McLeod voting in favor. Board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty and Area 4’s Johnny Hilton opposed the motion, and at-large member Shawn Ragin abstained.
Ray, Alston, Baker, McLeod and Ragin all won their seats on the board in November in contested fields. Hilton ran unopposed.
This school year, Mayewood and R.E. Davis Elementary School have consolidated at the R.E. Davis campus on Eastern School Road, 1.3 miles from Mayewood's East Brewington Road location, to become the R.E. Davis College Preparatory Academy serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
When asked after the meeting by The Sumter Item to explain the rationale for her motion to reopen Mayewood, Ray deferred any comment to Canty, citing a policy -- which has not always been enforced -- that was adopted by the consolidated district in 2011. That policy states only the board chairman can speak to the media on board-related matters from meetings. Any question from a journalist or media outlet directed to the other eight trustees, including questions about motions, actions and votes, must filter through the chairman.
That policy was issued and adopted in November 2011, just a few months into the administration of the first district superintendent, Randy Bynum.
When asked about Ray’s motion after the meeting, Canty said he had no idea it was coming and that it was not discussed in executive session.
He said the board members were moved by their own opinions and not the dictates of others.
“I have no idea how this action will be perceived or received by county council or the citizenry,” Canty said.
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