BREAKING: Sumter school board's vote to reopen Mayewood Middle was illegal, South Carolina Press Association says


Sumter School District Board of Trustees' vote on Monday night to reopen Mayewood Middle School was an illegal vote, according to the lawyer for the South Carolina Press Association.

After reviewing agenda items from the meeting, Jay Bender, legal counsel for the state press association, told The Sumter Item on Tuesday that because trustee Sherril Ray's motion to reopen Mayewood was neither listed on the meeting agenda nor amended and added to the agenda before the vote, the board's vote was an illegal vote.

The full board voted 6-2 with one abstention to operate the East Brewington Road campus as a middle school starting next school year in August. Less than a year ago, in April 2018, the board - albeit a group that consisted of five different trustees before the November midterm election changed a majority of the nine members - voted to close Mayewood and F.J. DeLaine Elementary School.

This school year, students and teachers from Mayewood have relocated to R.E. Davis Elementary School, which is now a consolidated magnet program called R.E. Davis College Preparatory Academy. R.E. Davis is 1.3 miles away from Mayewood. F.J. DeLaine students and teachers were consolidated into Cherryvale Elementary School.

"Unless there was a vote to amend the public agenda to consider reopening the school, then taking action on it without having it on the agenda is impermissible," Bender said. "If you don't have it on the agenda, you can't take action on it."

Earlier Tuesday, board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty, one of the two who voted in opposition to the school's reopening, said the full board discussed reopening Mayewood during a two-hour executive session before the trustees returned to open session about 10 p.m. but that he was surprised the discussion was put to motion.

He said board members interpreted the discussion as falling under the executive session item titled "Discussion of potential adversarial claims and discussion of negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements."

According to Bender, neither part of that item supports a vote on a motion.

"The fact that they had an executive session to discuss those doesn't mean they can come out and take up something that's not on the agenda entirely," he said. "It's just another example of a school board making it up as they go along.

"It seems to me if you are going to talk about reopening a school, you put it on the agenda, and you invite public attention to that because the public has an interest in knowing about it. To vote on it without it being on an agenda suggests that there is something to hide here. It may just be stupidity in not putting it on the agenda, but it also may indicate there is something to hide."