Leadership with the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base has indicated it is "troubled" by the actions of Sumter School District's Board of Trustees in recent months to revert against last year's school consolidation plan by the district.
Jane Allen, deputy director for installation support with the 20th Fighter Wing, is a non-voting member of the school board but can express her opinion in the voting process even though her vote isn't officially counted with the nine elected trustees.
During Monday night's school board meeting and discussion on whether to reopen F.J. DeLaine Elementary School in Wedgefield, she made the following statement, which she prepared herself after discussion with leadership of the 20th Fighter Wing:
"Leaders of the 20th Fighter Wing and military parents with children attending school within the Sumter School District are troubled by the looming repercussions of further reversion of the outlined school consolidation plan.
The previous consolidation plans were a step towards alleviating the financial challenges of the school district in an effort to provide a better education for our students. Undoing these efforts will restrict our ability to reassure airmen, soldiers and their families currently assigned to Shaw and moving to the Sumter community that this district can meet the educational needs of their children.
We've received continual feedback from those assigned to Shaw that the school district is one of their greatest concerns when they receive an assignment here. Most importantly, we need to focus on stability for our youth and a high-quality education that leads to a productive and a prosperous future for our students by allowing the consolidation plan voted on by the previous board to run its course."
Allen voted against next year's reopening of Mayewood Middle School at the Feb. 11 board meeting and against pursuing an appeal to the state Board of Education of State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman's "fiscal emergency" declaration on Feb. 28. She also abstained on March 4 from the board's vote to select Columbia-based White and Story LLC to help district administration and the board in preparing its appeal.
The decision in April 2018 to close Mayewood and F.J. DeLaine was due to what the board said at the time was low enrollment and a way to save money in light of the district continuing to dig out of a financial crisis from fiscal 2016 after an official audit revealed $6.2 million in budgetary overspending.
Spearman's declaration was a way to disapprove of the board rescinding its decision to close Mayewood, saying it was not included in a financial recovery plan that outlined how the district would build its general fund balance up to one month's operating expenditures by June 30, 2020, as required by a new state law.
At the time the plan was presented to the state over the summer, that threshold was expected to be about $12 million.
On June 30, 2016, the fund balance was down to $106,449 and has since been built back up to nearly $9 million after fiscal 2018.
This story will be updated.
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