Taking a "no shortcuts" approach, Sumter's first public charter school board of directors engaged a national nonprofit talent consulting firm to conduct the search that resulted in the finalists for the …
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Greg Thompson, Chair
Rev. Marion Newton
Taking a "no shortcuts" approach, Sumter's first public charter school board of directors engaged a national nonprofit talent consulting firm to conduct the search that resulted in the finalists for the school's founding executive director.
Those finalists will visit Sumter on Tuesday and Wednesday for interviews with Sumter STEAM Charter School's 11-member founding board and participate in two community engagement activities, according to the school's chief of staff, Trevor Ivey, who spoke Friday. The executive director will function as the school's principal but have other duties as well, including fundraising, Ivey said.
After vetting six consulting firms, the charter's founding board hired Boston-based Building Excellent Schools, a talent search and development organization committed to improving academic achievement of underserved students, to lead a national search for the position.
After recruitment efforts yielded 77 applicants, Building Excellent Schools presented the four finalists to Sumter STEAM Charter's board in a special-called meeting Thursday. Those candidates include three out-of-state education leaders with experience in charter schools in Vanity Jenkins of Dallas, Texas; Khalil Graham, also of Dallas; and Kim Scott of Charlotte, North Carolina. Rounding out the finalists is a public middle school assistant principal, Michael Van Tyne, from Darlington County School District.
The visit to Sumter County for the candidates will also include a community tour, a visit to the proposed school facility (the former St. Francis Xavier High School at 15 School St., near downtown Sumter), a private reception with local officials and recorded video-segment interviews.
The founding board considers the last two activities to be of particular interest to the public, and both will allow for community feedback, Ivey said.
The private reception is scheduled for Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. outside at La Piazza in downtown Sumter and will be for official public supporters of the charter school and also local elected officials, to include Sumter City Council, Sumter County Council and the local legislative delegation.
According to Ivey, documented public supporters of the charter from its previous application phase include some local elected officials who have pledged support, industrial workforce leaders, faith-based community representatives, prospective parents who have committed with enrollment interest forms, small-business leaders and other community leaders.
The video-highlight interviews on each of the four finalists will be posted on the charter's social media platforms on Thursday and Friday for community viewing and feedback via an online survey.
The founding board would have preferred to do a large community gathering, like in a public school district superintendent search, Ivey said, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, that wasn't a possibility.
The board thinks it has struck a good balance with the two offerings.
"Through both of these processes," Ivey said, "anybody in the community can provide their feedback to the board on the finalist candidates. We will be sharing a feedback survey posted online that individuals can complete."
The board hopes to select an executive director by the end of June, Ivey said, who can start later this summer.
The founding executive director of Sumter STEAM Charter will participate in leadership training also offered from the national search firm, which has a strong track record with public charter schools, Ivey said.
Greg Thompson, chairman of the founding board, who is also a local private business owner and chairman of the Sumter Development Board, said he thinks the 11-member board is taking the correct path in hiring a founding executive director.
"We know that this will be the single most important decision we make as a founding board and are committed to doing it right," Thompson said. "Behind every excellent school is an excellent leader. This exciting development affirms this board's collective and unyielding commitment to taking no shortcuts as we create an additional high-quality public education for our community."
MORE ON SUMTER'S FIRST PUBLIC CHARTER
On April 16, the state Public Charter School District's six-member board unanimously approved Sumter STEAM Charter School's application to begin operations in fall 2021 with kindergarten and first-grade levels and an estimated 144 students.
According to state law, charter schools offer alternative educational opportunities separate from traditional public schools and are also tuition-free. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently governed, and they are exempt from some state regulations. Most charter schools in the state are required to admit students from anywhere in their sponsor district using a lottery admissions process.
After beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the school plans to eventually build out to 976 total students in grades preK-12, Ivey added.
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