Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Educators in Sumter: What does "Sweet 16" mean to you?

Is it a birthday party for a 16-year-old girl, a social spectacle to draw everyone's attention?

Is it a bag of empty calories, coated with sugar or chocolate, to create a lot of activity but really making you sluggish?

Is it part of March Madness, a stage in a process of elimination?

In Sumter, thanks to a new superintendent with an interesting record, it's the new instrument being used to evaluate instructors and schools. It looks a lot like ADEPT, given all the "performance dimensions" and "teaching expectations," and given that these "dimensions" and "expectations" are all cross-referenced with ADEPT and the model promoted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

(Which makes me wonder: If teachers satisfy the "dimensions" and "expectations" of the "Sweet 16," which is cross-referenced with the evaluation model given to national board certification candidates, shouldn't these teachers collect the same state stipend that's given to national board-certified teachers? Just a thought...)

When a teacher in Sumter emailed to ask if I'd heard of this "Sweet 16" scheme, I was clueless. An education professional there shared the new administration's powerpoint -- a hefty, 33-slide monster larded down with tightly-packed text, which is precisely what experts say one shouldn't load onto a powerpoint presentation -- and I've read and re-read it carefully, leading to substantial eye-strain. I don't recommend it to others.

But I certainly understand now the consternation of education professionals in Sumter who will now be subject to it. To put it mildly, the Politburo couldn't have done a better job. For example, each "element" of each "performance dimension" "expects" each teacher to "exceed expectation." Might Joseph Heller have been consulted in its creation?

Shouldn't one expect a professional to "meet" expectation, and reward the professional for exceeding it? What's to reward if your expectation is that every professional exceed expectation?

As foolish as the whole thing sounds, I wonder if it actually represents a sinister motive. As I read the thing, there is an exceedingly narrow path to meeting all the dimensions, elements and expectations; there's only one way to get it all right. But there are innumerable possibilities to fail.

Demand that a professional juggle four balls, recite the Gettysburg Address, blink the lyrics to "Singin' In The Rain" in Morse code AND pedal a unicycle, all while standing on her head and smiling, and I suspect the professional may miss a letter or two of the Morse code when she gets to "I'm happy again!"

Candidly, it sounds like a plan invented by a middle-manager to subjectively fire teachers.

A natural question occurred to me: So where did this plan come from? That's when this became interesting.

Here's Mary Porter, who is not a teacher in South Carolina, but who sheds a little light on Sumter's new "Sweet 16":

I am a chemistry teacher at a low-income public school which has been horribly impacted by Broad's interference.

The "Broad" in question is California billionaire Eli Broad.

Although Broad admits he doesn't know anything about how to teach, the business model he imposes on public schools demands that his "trained" administrators come into our classrooms and force us to follow "standards-driven" teaching practices, supposedly to raise test scores. My district can't provide working heat, light, or running water for my under-equipped lab, but we pay hundreds of thousands to the consulting businesses he promotes. The real drive behind his manipulations is the marketing plan for the useless "services" and products provided (at public expense) by his for-profit entrepreneurial "partners."

Edu-business entrepreneurs hide under a layer of fake non-profits set up by "philanthropists" like Broad and Gates. Broad brags he's "not beholden to public opinion", meaning that, because of his wealth and the political power it buys, he is not accountable to the public. Believe me, Broad won't increase my pay at all. I get up at 5:30 every morning to dedicate my life, a day at a time, to teaching real chemistry. My students go to nursing schools, universities, state colleges and community colleges. When they enter the military, they do well enough on the ASVAB to qualify for specialist training. None of that is due to Broad's business model, though, and I won't promote his agenda. So my administrators have to decide that I'm not a leader.

Another educator, Michael Fiorello, notes the origins of Broad's fortune:

It's revealing that Broad earned the first of his many fortunes building gated communities and subdivisions in white-flight suburbs of Southern California. Originally named Kaufman and Broad, the company is now known as KB Homes, the stock of which is a major part of his foundation's endowment. So, a fortune created by federally- subsidized housing inequalities is then channeled into a tax-exempt foundation that funds the dismantling of the public schools and creation of a separate-and unequal education system. It's almost like a perpetual motion machine, as designed by Mephistopheles.

And Ms. Porter completes the picture:

The other half of his fortune came from his AIG stock - yes, he made another killing on those same defective mortgages, as AIG bundled them into derivitives. He donated most of his AIG stock at its peak to his own privately-controlled education foundation, which dumped the stuff. By the time the crash came, he was out and we educators are trapped under his billions. He also rebuilt New Orleans for Bush - you know how that went.

The housing stock is worse than underwater, now. He brought in cheap drywall from China for his developments, and the walls are now exuding toxic hydrogen sulfide gas which corrodes the wiring and poisons the occupants. The problem surfaced first in Florida, because of the heat and humidity. It's hard to say how many houses are affected, because of course he lies to evade responsibility, but the number keeps going up.

So Eli Broad, according to people who have considered his background, is a business tycoon who is successful at amassing personal fortune.

Is he an educator? No. Even he says he isn't.

Earlier, he’d explained his interest in the way school systems are run: “We don’t know anything about how to teach or reading curriculum or any of that. But what we do know about is management and governance.”

“We’re often accused of having too much influence in education,” Broad said. “I’m not sure how you’d restrict that.”

Yet Broad is heavily involved in education through his nonprofit organization, the Broad Foundation, which trains school boards and administrators -- not in curriculum or instruction, but in management.

What does this have to do with Sumter's "Sweet 16"? We're getting to Sumter, but we have to stop in Georgia first.

With a student population of about 3,000, Pebblebrook High School is the largest high school in Cobb County, Georgia, located just northwest of Atlanta in the community of Mableton. It's home to the county's only performing arts magnet program.

But during the school year of 2004-05, a new principal and the high school's journalism teacher clashed over the school's student newspaper, an award-winning production managed by student reporters and editors. We know this because of what happened at the end of the school year, and because dozens of email communications between the principal and the teacher were made public.

The stories of the involved parties differ: The principal said he had to make budget cuts, and the journalism teacher said the principal had balked at the newspaper's content and at being questioned by students. A reasonable person reading the emails could conclude that the principal was clearly irritated that the newspaper didn't cast him, his decisions and the school in a favorable light -- they weren't "cheerleading" -- and that he delayed meeting with student reporters for as long as possible.

When things came to a head, the principal blocked publication of the student newspaper, cut its funding from the budget, and cancelled future journalism classes. In response, the student journalists opened a weblog, posted all of their content -- including the dozens of internal emails -- there, drew the attention of the Atlanta-area major media, and sought legal support from a First Amendment legal services organization in Virginia.

However, in June 2005, before that issue was resolved, that principal was appointed "Area Assistant Superintendent in the Cobb County School District, the second largest district in Georgia with over 106,000 students in 113 schools." In this new position, the former principal would oversee "17 schools, over 19,000 students, 1,500 staff members, and a $120 million budget."

The contentious former principal and powerful new Area Assistant Superintendent's name was Randolph Bynum.

Very soon, the Atlanta Board of Education was undergoing training in "leadership strategies" offered by a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, California. Its press release, dated June 27, 2006, announces that the newer members of Atlanta's board were among the 29 board members from 11 urban school districts across the nation trained by the organization. The focus of the training, the release states, was "how to improve school board governance in order to achieve dramatic increases in academic performance for all children." The training lasted six days and was delivered in Park City, Utah.

The organization that trained these school board members was the Broad Institute for School Boards.

The administration of Cobb County schools must have been satisfied with trainings delivered by the Broad Institute in 2006. In 2007, Area Assistant Superintendent Randolph Bynum attended the Broad Institute's separate training program for superintendents, called the Broad Superintendents Academy. Though it is not a degree-granting organization, the Broad Superintendents Academy announced that Bynum "graduated" as part of its "class of 2007."

Within a year, in August 2008, the Broad-trained Bynum was promoted again: This time, he became Associate Superintendent for High Schools in the Atlanta Public Schools, "a district with over 49,000 students in 103 schools." The Broad Superintendents Academy was so proud of its "alumnus" that it published a press release on the announcement.

Bynum had clearly landed a plum role in a significant location. During the past decade, Atlanta Public Schools had earned a reputation for stunning improvement in student achievement, reflected in tremendous gains in student test scores.

That was Atlanta's reputation, of course, until the spring of 2011. In the span of a few weeks, celebrated superintendent -- indeed, national 2009 Superintendent of the Year -- Beverly Hall announced her resignation, and state authorities announced findings of a massive investigation into a widespread cheating scandal. Two of its conclusions, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A state investigation found former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides either ignored or destroyed evidence of test cheating across the district." And, "Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible."

It got worse.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served.

The report accuses top district officials of wrongdoing that could lead to criminal charges in some cases.

The decision whether to prosecute lies with three district attorneys — in Fulton, DeKalb and Douglas counties — who will consider potential offenses in their jurisdictions.

For teachers, a culture of fear ensured the deception would continue.

“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.

The voluminous report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.

The investigators conducted more than 2,100 interviews and examined more than 800,000 documents in what is likely the most wide-ranging investigation into test-cheating in a public school district ever conducted in United States history.

And just as Atlanta's meteoric test scores had attracted national attention, so did its scandal.

The 55,000-student Atlanta public school system rose in national prominence during the 2000s, as test scores steadily rose and the district received notice and funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation. But behind that rise, the state found, were teachers and principals in 44 schools erasing and changing test answers.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Atlanta cheating scandal, says the report, is that the district repeatedly refused to properly investigate or take responsibility for the cheating. Moreover, the central office told some principals not to cooperate with investigators. In one case, an administrator instructed employees to tell investigators to "go to hell." When teachers tried to alert authorities, they were labeled "disgruntled." One principal opened an ethics investigation against a whistle-blower.
"The [Atlanta] teachers, principals and administrators wanted to prove that the faith of the Broad and Gates Foundations and the Chamber of Commerce in the district was not misplaced and that APS could rewrite the script of urban education in America and provide a happy, or at least a happier, ending for its students," writes the AJC's education columnist, Maureen Downey.

By the time the state's findings were announced and the media spotlight burned on the district office, Atlanta's Associate Superintendent for High Schools was already gone, having just left town. On April 25, three hundred miles to the east, WLTX in Columbia reported this news:

The consolidated Sumter School District board has approved Randolph Bynum as the first superintendent the new school district has ever had.

"We want to have community schools in the farthest areas of the county to be along the same lines as mainstream Sumter schools," explains Ernest Frierson, a former board member and one of the residents at Monday night's meeting.

His concern was heard from others who stood at the podium, as well. Their meeting was held near Mayesville, a more rural area of the county. "One of the things that concerns us is that we have a lot of Pre-Kindergarten to 3rd grade children in that community who have to travel a long distance to be educated," Frierson says. He's hopeful the new superintendent will address those concerns.

Not all members of the board agreed on hiring Bynum, the final vote was five to two. But, it was a decision Chairman Larry Addison was pleased with.
Bynum is currently Associate Superintendent in Atlanta. Addison and others felt he's up for the challenge of bringing the two districts together. Of course, along with the help of those already in place. Says Addison, "We've got two good districts with a lot of good talent, a lot of good people."

The contract that the board approved will begin July 1st. It's currently a three-year contract with Bynum earning $175,000 a year.

Nice work, if you can get it. While other high-level administrators in Atlanta knew their secret activities were about to become public knowledge, Bynum had landed a choice escape from the taint of a cheating scandal -- and he happily told the Sumter Item of his glee.

Randolph Bynum was excited to learn he would be the first superintendent of the Sumter School District. "If you had been in the Bynum household last night, there were two people but it sounded like 50," he said Tuesday morning. "It's a fulfillment of a dream for me to be part of an outstanding community like Sumter."

Respectfully, it strains credulity to suggest that one who had been an associate superintendent in one of the nation's largest school districts at a time when it outshone the nation in improving test scores had "dreamed" of becoming superintendent in a much poorer district with a much lower profile, many fewer students and fewer schools, and where

The median income for a household in the county was $44,167, and the median income for a family was $48,970. Males had a median income of $41,083 versus $37,162 for females. The per capita income for the county was $45,657. About 13.10% of families and 16.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.60% of those under age 18 and 16.40% of those age 65 or over.

We might speculate that part of the excitement was knowing that the Sumter Item has a fraction of the resources of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so the wattage of media scrutiny of its schools superintendent is naturally much dimmer.

Bynum wasted no time announcing his resignation to the Atlanta media, who noted the coincidence of his leaving alongside the Atlanta superintendent and other administrators.

Atlanta Public Schools has lost another high-ranking official: Randolph Bynum, the city district's associate superintendent for high schools, was named this week as the new superintendent of schools in Sumter County, S.C.

Bynum officially starts July 1. APS's deputy superintendent for instruction, Kathy Augustine, was picked last week as a lone finalist to lead the suburban DeSoto Independent School District in Texas. Both of their departures coincide with that of Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall, who will leave the district June 30 after a 12-year tenure.

And just that quickly, the cheating scandal in Atlanta broke wide open, and news of the state's findings reached Sumter, leading the Item to publish this note:

The Atlanta Public School system has been making headlines for a cheating scandal, which led some Sumterites to ask if the new superintendent of Sumter School District was involved.

Randolph Bynum said neither he nor his two new cabinet members also from that school system, Cassandra D. Dixon for chief teaching and learning officer and Lisa M. Norman for chief curriculum and accountability officer, were involved.

It's a brief note, not quite the same as hard-hitting investigative reporting, but let's look at it carefully.

The Atlanta Public Schools enrolled 55,000 students, making it smaller than our Greenville Public Schools (70,210 students) but larger than Charleston County Schools (about 42,000 students). Students enrolled in the newly-consolidated Sumter school district totaled about 16,400 as of its December 8, 2011, report to the state Department of Education, which means that the Sumter consolidated district is comparable in size to Lexington-Richland District 5, which ranks 16th in the state by student population.

If Dr. Penny Fisher, superintendent of Greenville's schools, has a "Cabinet," I cannot find mention of it on that district's website, although she has an organizational chart that certainly reflects the needs of a 70,000-student district. Likewise, I cannot find any evidence that Dr. Steven Hefner, superintendent of Lexington-Richland District 5, claims to need one; nor can I find evidence that a district of Lexington-Richland 5's size needs a detailed organizational chart. Maybe it has one, but it isn't advertised online.

Yet Bynum has not a "leadership team" or even "administrative team," but a "Cabinet." That's fine. People use different words to mean the same thing. Presidents and governors have Cabinets and superintendents have administrative teams, but what does it matter that a superintendent likes to call his administrative team a Cabinet? It's word choice. It's a small thing.

And does it matter that Bynum differentiates between a "Senior Cabinet" of seven administrators and an "Expanded Cabinet"? Of course not. Still, the words are there on the superintendent's organizational chart, prominently placed on the district website.

Which was established and circulated on July 11, ten days after his arrival.

And which includes the names Dixon and Norman, who are presumably the Cassandra D. Dixon and Lisa M. Norman named in the Sumter Item, the two Cabinet members that Bynum brought with him to Sumter as media scrutiny illuminated the cheating scandal of that city's school system.

Further, they are presumably the same Cassandra Dixon and Lisa Norman whose names appear on the title slide of the administration's powerpoint presentation co-introducing (with Joan Sagona and Cornelius Leach, respectively) the complex new evaluation tool called "Sweet 16" to Sumter's classroom teachers.

It would seem that Sumter's recent consolidation and need for a new superintendent, and the willingness of Sumter trustees to hire the new superintendent's Atlanta staff alongside him, were fortuitous circumstances indeed for a new superintendent and two of his seven "Senior Cabinet" members. Can it be that the district office on Wilson Hall Road has a "Cabinet Room" now?

And did the Atlanta Public Schools use "Sweet 16" before the new superintendent and his aides brought it to Sumter? Is it a product of the Broad Foundation, in part or entirely?

Sumter is truly a wonderful place to live and work. Unless, now, you're an education professional who teaches, and you're now subject to "Sweet 16."

The Sumter Item, understandably supportive of its new school district and hopeful for its new superintendent, published an introductory message from Bynum on August 14. After re-reading the email correspondence of Bynum and the Pebblebrook High School journalism teacher in Mableton, Georgia, from 2005, one can't help but imagine that Bynum would have appreciated the same acquiescence from student journalists then that he's receiving from Sumter's mainstream media today. In it, he did not mention "Sweet 16."

The Item did publish a note on September 16 announcing the introduction of "Sweet 16."

SWEET 16 is not a birthday party Sumter School District is planning.

Systematic Way to Ensure Effective Teaching 16 is an instructional audit system aimed at improving professional development by observing 16 elements of classroom teaching. According to paperwork in the board packets, the "framework enhances the skills of classroom teachers to direct the new work of standards-based learning in order to lead the state in improving student achievement."

Let me translate: No Child Left Behind taught teachers to "teach to the test," no longer to teach to educate. Since the implementation of NCLB, however, new research (especially by an analyst named Robert J. Marzano, whose work is now the flavor-of-the-year in several states) has shown that "an effective teacher enhances student learning more than any other aspect of schooling that can be controlled."

So the new goal, thanks to NCLB, which is still in effect, and the work of Marzano, is that we have to make every teacher fit a predetermined definition of "effective," then make that teacher teach to the test.

Voila! Improved student achievement -- accomplished by tough-as-nails administrators with minimal resources and a teaching workforce judiciously weeded and beaten into submission.

Except that, as classroom educators understand, that isn't how children learn.

Google "Sweet 16" and "teacher evaluation" and you'll discover that the program exists only in Sumter County, South Carolina.

Google "Robert J. Marzano" and "research" and you'll find that Marzano himself, underneath all the gobbledygook, only identifies nine "essential instruction strategies for effective teaching."

In market economics, buying a nine-piece product and repackaging it as a 16-piece product is called inflation; this is a concept that business tycoons understand, which suggests that there's a thick slice of Broad Foundation philosophy sandwiched together with Marzano's strategies in "Sweet 16."

Are Sumter County's teachers about to suffer under a hyped-up evaluation system that the board of trustees didn't know they were buying, and don't really understand?

This is a lot of information to digest, but here are some questions to ponder:

What kind of influence will the Broad Foundation and Broad-trained administrators seek to impose on a developing rural and suburban district like Sumter?

Did the selection committee of the board of education know all of the information that is publicly available and easily accessible on the internet about the new superintendent before choosing him? If so, how did they plan to respond when the baggage from Mableton and Atlanta arrived on their doorstep?

Should those who cover education for the Sumter Item get in touch with education reporters from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to better understand the new superintendent's history and style? And to better understand who was imported alongside him?

Should a fuller discussion of a complex and unique new evaluation tool be conducted in public before it's implemented, especially if it's designed to replace existing evaluation systems and subjectively remove educators from their livelihoods?

Should Sumter's classroom professionals and parents find out more about the Broad Foundation's philosophy and history in public schools, and about their new superintendent and his Cabinet, and about the origins of "Sweet 16," the complex new teacher evaluation tool that their board of education has agreed to impose on them?

Should educators and parents in other school districts pay close attention to what's happening to their counterparts in Sumter, to be prepared when the same phenomenon occurs under a different label in their own communities?

NOTE: For educators who've arrived at the post for the first time, a follow-up to it is found here.

To those who have posted responses and who have wanted to post responses, be aware that you're not alone -- and that educators across South Carolina, and now outside the state, are becoming aware of your circumstances. The best solution will come when educators feel free to organize themselves, supported by parents and community leaders, and take charge of our education professions, as is the case already in many other states.

Teaching is the most important job in America, and our state and communities should move heaven and earth to ensure that the knowledge, experience, commitment and passion of education professionals is respected, supported and rewarded, every day.


  1. Thank you so much for this public acknowledgement of what Sumter's educators are going through. One full semester has already been wasted on Sweet 16. Tax dollars and valuable time that should have been spent actually educating our students instead of practicing circus act audits. I pray that the school board will soon admit the error of their choice. The Item is obviously not interested in investigative reporting. Maybe The State or one of the Columbia TV stations will come to Sumter and start looking into what is going on. It's not pretty!

  2. Check out Parents Across America. They have mnay articles about the Broad Academy and the Gates Foundation and the havoc they have done to school districts nationwide. Teachers from Sumter have been asking for help since August when this was shoved down the throats and then were furloughed for 2 days at the start of school with the expectation that many would work over the weekend to catch up before students arrived. Teachers have been doing the research and sending the information out to people but the public and the board seem to want to put blinders on instead of dealing with the situation.

  3. I have been very happy with the school district up until this year. I am horrified that the teachers are being bullied like they are. We have fabulous teachers and I would certainly hate to see them pressured to seek jobs elsewhere!

  4. Thank you for this article. It is urgent for everyone in Sumter, especially our school board, to realize that a huge mistake has been made. Virtually every decision made by this new administration has been hurtful to teachers and many decisions have made administrators' jobs more difficult. It is the students will will pay the price for this if something is not done to turn the tide. Sweet 16 has added unbelievable work and stress on educators, and no satisfactory explanation has been given to justify it. The reasons given simply do not hold water.

  5. The Item won't publish anything negative about Broady-toady Bynum. Interviews with him have been pure softball questions, probably submitted in advance (that would match his known, documented requirements). Answers from Bynum are always evasive, non-committal, and guaranteed to lick the boots of whatever local political entities can best advance his master's agenda. I just wonder what on earth our little community of Sumter has to offer Eli Broad. A lot of us teachers would like to know EXACTLY where the supply money went. He was required to demonstrate that it went specifically to preserve teaching positions, yet he publicly stated that it was used for district supplies and other needs. Note that "required" should be followed with "by law." Emperor Randy and his cabinet seem to be above the law. They are arrogant buffoons who lack the slightest concept of professionalism. We will lose good teachers to these clowns and their programs and lies.

  6. I have been "Sweet Sixteened" and my personal opinion is that it is a ridiculous instrument of intimidation. I am not saying this because I got bad ratings. I got very good ratings. It is so ludicrous (and rather obnoxious) that the "powers that be" think that they can go into a teacher's classroom for one day and make a determination about whether or not the teacher is doing a good job. Let my children's test scores speak for me. Let my administrators who see me regularly make a knowledgeable determination. All instruction doesn't fit into a set mold. Poor leaders need to micromanage. Good leaders trust and believe in those they have hired to do the job.

  7. It would be nice if the School Board were as logical and well-read as you are. Unfortunately anyone who brings any of these concerns to the new Board is given lip service and rationalizations. Also, the attitude of some Board members is very condescending as if we lowly educators could not possibly understand the importance of such red tape as sweet 16 and all that goes with it. If we educators question decisions being made or those we fear may come, we are told we must not support public education. I believe that is a propaganda technique taught in our schools. The bottom line is that the constant micromanagement by the new district leaders is making this school year the most stressful year that many educators in Sumter have ever had to endure.

  8. Our school board and public in general needs to wake up at the totalitarian structure that has been put in place. Our teacher forums are restricted now, people are silenced at board meetings, we are told we are not allowed to contact the State Department of Education, to "be careful" about calling our Board members because there WILL BE consequences, and it goes on and on. It sounds a lot like a "culture of fear and intimidation" the Atlanta teachers talked about. All the while, we have 2 new assistant superintendent positions that have not existed before (both making well over $100,000)and every teacher has been furloughed 4 days. Additionally, several district office personnel took a trip to China. Although I have heard that China paid for it (not sure if that is true), it still does NOT look good for our "leaders" to be galavanting in the Chinese countryside when we (the ones responsible for the actual instruction of students) are sitting home on a furlough day. True leaders understand you roll up your sleeves and take your lumps the same as your people have to...unless you have an elitist view of leadership like Eli Broad, Randolph Bynum, and other cabinet positions at our District Office.

  9. The high schools in Sumter County are in near total chaos. The Sweet 16 system is bad enough, but the district has seen fit to silence, bully and intimidate anyone who dares speak out. Teachers are told, in no uncertain terms, that they are not permitted to speak to board members, nor can they address the district superintendent directly about anything. The district staff has told principals that suspension of disruptive students is not permissible. Students are running rough-shod over teachers and are grossly disrupting the learning environment for those who want to learn. School administrators will not back teachers up with effective discipline because they have been been throttled by the district admin9istration. Teachers are disheartened and suffer emotionally on a daily basis under the yoke of oppression under the policies of the new superintendent. District administrators routinely lie to teachers and school level administrators and then respond by intimidating any teacher who dares to research the facts that would counter the lies. Leadership is totally absent in this new district administration and the children and professional staff are suffering. The Sumter School District Board needs to face the music and end this debacle NOW. If not the Board, then local media and community leaders need to stand up and force a change. Silence on these problems in the school district on the part of the local newspaper is deafening. CHAOS is the only word in the English language to describe what is going on in Sumter.

  10. A friend shared a link to this blog, and I'd like to share some thoughts because I admire teachers and want them to succeed on every level.
    Consolidation of the Sumter school districts and the superintendent search have been covered exhaustively by The Item staff since the beginning of the process several years ago, and the public had the same full access to the same public meetings The Item covered........our archives are fully accessible at www.theitem.com.....the coverage of the board's actions and questions about the new administration's connections to Atlanta have also been thorough and ongoing......anonymous comments and accusations on sites such as this are interesting, but won't solve problems or help bring about changes......that will take speaking out publicly about problems in a specific way and letting the chips fall......it also appears that wholesale change would require the election of a new school board, because the board votes are what ultimately matters.....if people feel strongly enough about the need for change, they will organize and vote for it....
    The Item is located at 20 North Magnolia St., Sumter, S.C., 29150......and my e-mail address is graham@theitem.com.
    Graham Osteen.

  11. got to remember that our board members are mostly products of the Sumter school system ... or at least elected mostly by those who are.

  12. Graham:
    Apparently you are not reading the blogs carefully. What part of the anonymous posting of today at 5:35 AM did you not understand? It adequately addresses the necessity for ANY critic of the current district administration, given their history of bullying, lying and intimidating, and otherwise silencing any criticism. Under these circumstances, it possibly should be the responsibility of the press to INVESTIGATE and either confirm or report facts to the contrary to the public. The Item did a great job covering the controversy surrounding consolidation and a very marginal job of vetting and reporting on the aftermath of hiring the superintendent and his "Super Cabinet". Many teachers have sent e-mails to The Item education reporter, Jade Anderson, concerning the conditions reported in the earlier blog. Investigating involves more than simply asking the superintendent if he had knowledge of or participated in the cheating scandal in Atlanta public schools and then dropping the issue with his reply of "NO". If you read the Atlanta Journal's reporting, Atlanta Public School District staff told district principals to tell the GBI (SLED)agents investigating the cheating to "go to hell". This is bold to say the least, but it is the very same attitude on display in our community school system today.Until public school employees are able to speak about the conditions of the schools WITHOUT FEAR OF REPRISALS,it must rely on the press. Current conditions in the Sumter District sets a perfect catch 22 situation for employees - speak about the issues facing education in the Sumter School District with your name made public and rig for personal retaliation. On the other hand, state the problem in an anonymous way and have concerns totally rejected. Meanwhile, kids and teachers are the big losers with this great experiment.

    Sign me wishing to make my name public, but too afraid to do so. (I need the job.)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! The Item has been absolutely useless in this situation. The problem is the Osteen's aren't pushing their reporters to investigate because their Kids aren't in the Sumter School District. They attend private school. I do agree with the comment about voting for change because if someone like Angus McDuffie had been elected instead of people voting the party line maybe things would be different. Do your research vote for qualified people not based on party, race, gender, or name!

  13. To The Item, The State, The State Board of Education, or ANYONE Who Will Listen:

    The educators in Sumter County are AFRAID for their jobs if they speak out in public. The teacher who posted in the missive at 2:05 PM is right. Everytime that I have read an article in the paper with quotes from the district office, I see through the spin that was put into the answer. When will the public ever start listening to those of us in the trenches? We are educators who put our hearts and our souls into teaching the children of Sumter County day after day. DO SOME RESEARCH! Ask some teachers! Think back to how our school year started. We weren't given enough time to get out classrooms ready. (We did it on the weekends.) We were shuffled from meeting to meeting. One meeting was an introduction to Sweet 16. There were numerous grammatical and spelling errors in that original handout. We were told that all ELA and Math classes in the county would be audited during the first semester. Social Studies and Science classes would be audited during the 2nd semester. Teachers began to ask question. The Sweet 16 guidelines were unclear. There were conflicting answers. The teachers stuggled on to get ready for the audits. The "Powers that Be" behind the creation of Sweet 16 were wrong about how long it would take the get the audits done. By the end of first semester, only 9 schools in the entire county had been audited in ELA and Science. The "Powers that Be" had created a monster that they won't admit is not working out. These audits are sucking the life blood out of Sumter School District. The ELA, social studies, math, science, elementary, early childhood, ....... and so on coordinators from the district office can't get their work at the DO done from spending so much time on training to do the audits, doing the audits, and writing the audit reports. They have even HIRED someone for the DO to tabulate the DATA for the audits. NONE of this is teaching one child anything. It's simply causing problems just like the Broad Institute teaches its followers to do..................

    1. Sorry for the error. ELA and Math classes were audited. Science hasn't been audited yet. We have heard that those subjects will be audited next school year and that 25% of ELA and math classes will be audited. Parents, please push to have this stopped. It's not in the best interests of your children. The teachers are exhausted, miserable, and stressed beyond belief. There is no supply money. We feel that the supply money has been "stolen" from us by the district office. We have been furloughed so that more people can be hired at the district office level. Please help. Make your voices heard.

  14. Graham! We have NO choice but to remain anonymous if we want our jobs. I don't think you are understanding the level of oppression that the teachers in our Sumter District are under. Ask ANY teacher at ANY school, "How is morale under the new leadership?" It is horrible. In all my years of teaching, I have never seen such discouraged teachers and such incompetent, uncaring leadership.

  15. If you read Osteen's reply, it is obvious the Item is either lazy or has drank the Koolaid regarding this situation. Perhaps if this got to the State paper it might do some good. The problem is that "political correctness" has made everyone walk on eggshells when dealing with "minorities", and I'm sure that includes district administrators. If Bynum and his "cabinet" were Caucasian, this poop would have hit the fan before he was hired, and in fact he probably would not have even been interviewed. You teachers are between a rock and a hard place-you need your jobs and the administrators know that only too well. What you need is a collective voice to air these problems. Until then, you are caught in a district chess game, with you teachers as the pawns and the students as the losers.

    1. Osteens family attends Willie Hall.. It would be interesting to send them to Public Schools for a week in the Basic Classes and come home and write an article.

  16. Let's face it...it's a right to work state. You are all so proud of it, so deal with it. The big city super came in and put all the farmers under thier thumbs and changed the mentality of those who must acquiesce to the new status quo. Stop complaining..unless you all stand up to the new situation it will not change. This public school system has great programs, the teachers and local admin's work like crazy to get things done, but now they have to follow a new book. And please, please don't dare complain to the state or feds about not being able to complain. The new chief knows that the majority will not stand up or question the new boss, cause we're all from here and are afraid to leave. Gee how much does it cost to bus our kids to Manning?

    1. We are a right to work state and proud of it! I have friends who teach in states with unions and the union is NOT looking out for the best interest of the children. The supervisors are very limited in the control of their staff, as you know it takes an army to get an horrible teacher fired in a union. The principals can't even tell their teachers to include technology in their lesson plans, their lesson plans only have to reflect a standard/objective and an assessment. Do you know anything about education?

  17. I stare at this comment space with no fight left. This year has been horrible. My love for teaching has been tested. The amount of extra (busy)work has affected my ablity to really plan interesting activities for my students. The amount of work I take home has affected my family. The extra money that I have had to put into buying supplies for my students has affected my finances. At the beginning of the school year I had hope that the teachers would be heard, but I have seen what happens when we dare to be vocal. More and more I see silence taking over. I am tired, disappointed, and feeling hopeless. I pray that things will change.

  18. Personally, if you are not a teacher then you don't have a valid opinion of this because you don't see what we do everyday. You are not subject to what we are subject to everyday. You don't have to look at 45 students in your classroom who all learn a different way and I have to be judged on how all 45 of them do. If you were held responsible, the way Sweet 16 does, you would be upset about all of this as well. If you were help responsible for your neighbor not cutting his lawn or the kid down the street stealing bikes then you wouldn't be happy either. One of the forms in this Sweet 16 marks down how many students are not focused on 5 minute intervals. Have you ever tried to really focus for an hour and a half straight? In case you've forgotten, school isn't always fun and sometimes you just day dream. But I'm held responsible for it and I'm not an effective teacher if you do that. And you aren't the one here having no choice but to post as anonymous because the truth is "right to work" means they can fire me at any moment for any reason and I can't do anything about it. I feel like I'm working for the mob and I have no choice but to follow along because I believe in the future of our young students and want to make it a successful one for them. As long as I have to buy every single thing in my classroom, everything that makes learning fun and easier for multiple styles of learning, and the district is wasting money by supporting a program that has yet to be implemented anywhere else in the world and is based on stipulations set forth by National Boards, that most veteran teachers never even reach after multiple tries, is just plain ridiculous. Why don't you take a look at this website and tell me then if I should just suck it up and do what I'm told while your children suffer and they're growing up to be the ones changing your bedpan in the nursing home. http://district.sumterschools.net/site_res_view_folder.aspx?id=f40c1eb3-464f-42ea-a55a-d60aef39aa02

  19. I have communicated with my teacher friends across the district and across the levels, elementary through high school, and I can state, without reservation, that morale in the 2011-2012 Sumter County School District is dismal. The furlough days and the lack of supply checks add to the disdain we feel towards the new monarchy; our thoughts and comments are unwelcome and dismissed it as our Emperor stated "end of discussion";the board allowed someone to come into the district and "fix" things that were not broken. That is just poor leadership!

    The South Carolina Education Association representaive will be addressing the board @ the Monday night meeting at HEADQUARTERS on Wilson Hall Road. Come out and hear the truth, talk to teachers, talk to the students and above all-don't drink the kool-aid!

  20. As a parent, I need to know how to be proactive and be an advocate for the teachers. I have already heard stories from my two children that collaborate the comments above. I have been angry this whole school year over the descriptions they give us regarding students bullying teachers (forget the state law that says teachers/admins must protect the students against bullying...the teachers can't stand up for themselves). Disruptive students cursing and threatening teachers and stealing at will from other students and total monarchy in the hallways, bathrooms, and gymnasium. Ongoing marijuana smoking in bathrooms....etc etc. It is a no brainer that teachers who speak out against admins are doomed to not have their contracts renewed...never mind the whistler act, I suppose. Tell us what parents need to do...remember, they can't fire us...we are the REAL EMPLOYERS of the admins (tax payers pay the salaries) and our votes are the power behind the school board. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and we best all start squeaking!

  21. Parents, please organize and keep calling board members. Show up at EVERY board meeting, sign up to speak at board meetings. Ask questions!!! Keep on the Item and make sure they do REAL investigation; not just lip service. You are absolutely correct that teachers are being bullied from both sides...the district leaders and from the students. The district has been very vocal that the school administrators cannot suspend so many students and the students know that...behavior is HORRIBLE. Don't be fooled by the smaller suspension and referral numbers. The district personnel have instructed administrators not to suspend kids and to curb the number of referrals. Kids in my class that want to learn cannot because I spend so much time putting out fires. It's pathetic. I am miserable and the kids that WANT to be in school are miserable, too. Parents...PLEASE be our voice.

  22. Parents,
    Show up to the board meetings. The next one will be held Monday, January 23 at 6:45pm. Express your concerns about the district credit card statements, which can be found online at http://district.sumterschools.net/site_res_view_folder.aspx?id=e0229bfe-4481-4fdf-ac73-450dd55f03f9 . Ask why Mr. Bynum charged $1,310 at Polar Bears cleaners, $107+ at Baker's Sweets, etc., and why your tax dollars paid for it. Ask why we teachers are buying the printer ink and printer paper used in our classrooms, but the employees at the District Office are not. Ask the board why Mr. Bynum was hired given his history of censorship/dictatorship and writing in an email (now public) that a female student at the high school in GA was "bitching" after she complained. ALL of this was public knowledge via a simply Google Search BEFORE he was hired. The list goes on and on. Share this article with other parents and get them to come with you to the board meeting. Make it very clear to the board members that they need to do something very quickly. We teachers have had enough of this dictatorship, and it is only January! We obviously aren't going to get help from the Item and must rely on you, the parents. We are pleading for HELP! If the board doesn't help, then VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE and let them know you will do this!

  23. To the teachers of Sumter School District:

    The parents of the Sumter community believe you and believe in you. Do not lose hope. We are working to remedy this horrendous situation. Keep the comments coming.

    Remember: Sumter School Board has four seats up for election in the fall!

  24. Why is it that teachers, students and parents can see the destructive culture this new superintent has visited upon the school district in Sumter and the School Board and the press are oblivious to it all? What is the agenda of the Board and The Item? Does the plight of the students who want to learn mean a thing to these two groups? Read, research ask questions and don't be fooled into drinking the Kool Aid that Bynum and his advocates spew. UNBELIEVABLE is the only word that comes to mind when I think of the situation. Change should not be synonymous with destruction. However, in this case, it is. I will be trying to arrange for my grandchildren to attend a private school or even be home schooled if this clown remains in change of the circus.


    1. The board hired who they wanted to hire. They didn't listen to the input from the teachers, the adminstration, or anyone else. Bynum should never have been a finalist. He doesn't even have a doctorate in administration. There were focus meetings with each finalist. The teacher representatives from each school in the district who were part of those meetings shared their notes from the interviews with their faculties. The faculties gave input which was shared with the school board. There were teachers who did research on each finalist. They found out about the cheating in Atlanta. This information was given to the school board. THEY KNEW! They simply choose to ignore it. Consolidation was meant to SAVE tax dollars. There are more adminstrative postions than ever before at the district office. MORE tax dollars that never reach the classroom! PARENTS, please unite. You are our only HOPE!!! Please act soon.

  26. After reading this article, you can be assured I will attend every Sumter School District board meeting from now on! This is absolutely ridiculous what is going on! However, I don't think threatening sending your children to private schools is the answer. If that was our intention, they would be there now. We can't let these "Broad" educated people take over our public schools.

    1. To the blogger who wrote that if I had wanted my grandchildren in private schools they would already be there. NO SO! I have been pleased with the public school system for my two children and my two grandchildren up until this year when Bynum took over. Keep in mind that he has been in charge seven months and only 5 of those months while school has been in session. Looking into sending children to private school takes some time. Finding a local private school, interviewing, arranging transportation, securing the finances to afford them and finding a school that has room in the specific grade level(s) and the problem of transferring in the middle of a school year all take planning. Unlike the Sumter School District School Board, I do my homework BEFORE I make important decisions. But, thanks for your uninformed opinion on the matter of the education of my family. It indicates that your are missing the point entirely.

  27. I would like to say thank you to all of the people who are sharing this blog on facebook. I know that I speak for many other teachers who are afraid to click "like" or to comment on your post. Just want to let you know how much we appreciate your support!

    1. Teaching is the most important job in America, and our state and communities should move heaven and earth to ensure that the knowledge, experience, commitment and passion of education professionals is respected, supported and rewarded, every day.

      Thank YOU for the hard work you do.

  28. As a post-graduate father of four whose children are currently attending public schools in Sumter County, I would like to offer the following thoughts regarding our teachers, school board, and recently elected superintendent.

    To begin with, I would like to applaud the teachers of Alice Drive Elementary and Middle School. My wife and I have been very pleased with the quality of education our children have received, as well as the care and attention offered by each of their outstanding teachers.

    To all Sumter School District teachers, I implore you to be faithful and not give up! What hangs in the balance is nothing less than our future. With relentless resolve, keep pouring your lives into the children of Sumter. With courage, refuse to allow the irresponsibility of our school board to steal your joy for teaching. Revisit the passion of old that propelled you into this noble profession. Stay the course and fight the battle before you.

    To the Sumter School Board I say this...

    I am deeply concerned for the future of public schools in Sumter County. From my perspective, it appears you decided to dine with the devil at the cost of teacher morale and our children's future. I find it delinquent at best, scandalous at worst, that this board, when entrusted by the good people of Sumter to choose its next superintendent, would hire someone who is even remotely affiliated with such a reprehensible (and well documented) cheating scandal. I am simply stunned by the apparent irresponsibility this board has exhibited in selecting someone with such a shady past and questionable alliances. Seriously, I wonder if this school board practiced any due diligence at all?

    Furthermore, if the facts presented regarding Mr. Bynum are true, I believe the entire Sumter School Board should be immedately removed from their duties and replaced by competent, college educated, wise citizens who will place the well being of our public schools ahead of their own personal preferences - regardless of race or gender.

    Honestly, from this father's perspective, it sure appears that the Sumter School Board, with the selection of Mr. Bynum, has chosen to sacrifice the morale of our hardworking and underpaid educators, not to mention our children, on the alter of race.

    Now, let me say this - I care not one iota whether the Sumter School District is led by an African American or Caucasian superintendent. Nor do I care whether they are male or female. Race and gender should never factor into such a selection. However, I do care immensely that Sumter has a superintendent who upholds, in his or her person and leadership, the highest ethical and educational standards. That the Sumter School Board would select a well-documented cheater, notorious bully, and liberally influenced educator in the name of diversity is one more in a long line of evidences that prove just how dysfunctional Sumter really is.

    The parents of Sumter County who entrust their children to the public school system should rise up and hold this school board accountable for placing the future of Sumter public schools in the hands of an individual whose ethics are deplorable, whose leadership is influenced by special interest alliances, and whose silencing of high school journalism students in Atlanta is simply unconstitutional.

    I ask you, parents of Sumter County, is this the kind of leader we want to entrust the future of our public schools too?

    Do we want a cheater leading our schools?

    Do we want a special interest agenda leading our schools?

    Do we want someone who will use his power to silence the freedom of speech in our schools?

    I for one think NOT!

    We reap what we sow and I fear what will be sown under the leadership of this current school board and our new superintendent.


    A Concerned & Disappointed Father

    1. THANK YOU "CONCERNED AND DISAPPOINTED FATHER" for this well stated challenging response. It is so good, I do not understand why you did not sign your name and take ownership for this wise input. I realize the frightening situation in which teachers find themselves, and the threat that parents may feel because of needing to protect their children. However, I believe there is power in not being afraid to sign your name to what you really believe. Banning together should prove to be good. Power, also, is in numbers. After all, they can't fire all of you, and if they can, then we are up against a BIGGER army than just the known supporters of Bynum and his team.
      I want to respond to a few bloggers (not you) who have made negative comments about The Item in the reporting on behalf of the school system. I believe The Item will report confirmed news, but not heresay. Those of you/us who know documented facts should be willing to, not only make truth known, but be willing to sign our names so that it can be reported. I do not see Graham Osteen as an enemy of the Sumter Public School System. His freedom of choice to send his children to private school is one of the rights all of us still have in our land of America, and he should not have to defend that right. Critics of this right should re-evaluate their motive. His choice of being in control of where his children attend school should not make him a target of accusations as to his concerns for our public school system. (He probably does not even know my name, so please don't speculate my motive for stating my thoughts here.)
      I am not afraid to sign my name and hope it will encourage others to do the same.

      Jenny Jackson, Retired SHS Secretary

    2. Ms. Jackson:
      You are absolutely correct in reminding us that it is Graham Osteen's right to send his children to private school. I do not believe that stating the fact that his children attend a private school was, in any way, challenging that fact. Instead, the point was that he can't possibly have day-to-day knowledge of what is going on in the public schools. He does, however, have the ability and means to investigate what is going on. Enough has been revealed to establish a reasonable suspicion that there is something wrong within the public school system and that it should be thoroughly checked out.

  29. THANK YOU JACKIE HICKS for coming to our board meeting to say what we can't. The applause and STANDING OVATION tells you all you need to know about what's happening. Please stick with us through this, I think it takes a teacher to understand what teachers suffer. I don't know many of us who can afford to represent ourselves and risk losing our job. Thank you to the SCEA for representing us all.

  30. I attended tonight and was amazed at the indifference given to obviously conerned parents - who, I might add, showed the patience and restraint of Saints. When we leave this earth, our lasting legacy will be the children we raise and leave to run this country. Granted, education MUST start in the home, but educators see, interact with, and mentor our children when we cannot. How can they gain parental assistance if they cannot even gain the respect or trust of the administration? Dishonest, unethical, and narcisitic attitudes will not solve our problems. We collectively must forge on to win the day. National attention (Oh, say Bill O'reilly) might be able to cut through the spin zone to make an impartial observation. Here, however, I believe that will be hard to do.

  31. Parents and Community are starting to understand...we will back you up! Just keep communicating the best you can!

  32. Readers,
    A post-board meeting update is published on Educating South Carolina's homepage. Click "Home" to get to it.

    Feel free to post feedback from the meeting, to continue sharing the link with parents and educators, and linking to Educating South Carolina at Facebook.

  33. We as parents need to educate ourselves on what is happening. The future of our schools is at hand. The teachers that we stand behind are our friends, neighbors, relatives and part of our community. I thought that being bullied wasn't allowed in our schools? But it is happening everyday to our teachers! They cannot speak for themselves out of fear of losing their jobs. This is REAL FOLKS! Speak to parents that you know! Spread the word! Pass on this blog! Save our Schools!

  34. Parents, Teachers, Readers - Please read the article below


    The virus is in Sumter.

  35. A am tired of going to school with a knot of fear in my stomach every morning. I cannot forget the haunted look in the eyes of my co-workers, for I see it every day. Look at the faces of teachers in this district. You'll see raw, naked fear, hopelessness and frustration. We have been hounded and indirectly threatened if we talk to anyone about this, much less among our colleagues. I have never seen teachers more passionate about teaching despite the shackles and gags that are forced upon us. We cannot stand up for ourselves because of this intense intimidation. Is anyone listening? Can something actually be done? Please help.

  36. I guess I am missing the point. Why is an audit of a teacher a bad thing? Is there concrete evidence in Sumter County that I am not aware of that this is doing some sort of harm to my child or her teacher? Is this somehow changing the quality of education she is getting?

    Sumter District Parent.

    1. Go get a copy of this huge poorly constructed document and read it. Then think of how teachers are supposed to teach if they are doing a song and dance to appease the Emperor sitting in the death star. Yes it is changing the quality of education because teachers are tired of the harrassment and the threats and the coaching up lectures in which the teachers sit in a room are go over how they scored well on this part to the teacher that gave them the idea and made a lower score. It is not based on any research. The highly qualified teachers that are present in the district are looking to leave. The district will be saddled with teachers from TFA that do not even hold degrees or endorsements in the subject areas that they are teaching. The scores the highly qualified teachers have been working on will exist no more. So cheaper work force comes in and I guess that is more money for trips for HQ to go to Chic fil a.

    2. I'm one of those teachers looking to leave. If I can't get a job in another career, I'll be looking to commute to the next county. When we combined districts it caused all of us to be STUCK. We can't change districts if we're unhappy without leaving Sumter. I'm a veteran..I've been Teacher of the Year...I'm a National Board Certified Teacher...I'm good at what I do. But with this administration and the implementation of the "Sweet 16," I have felt since day one like it's "us vs. them." In August, during our first meeting to introduce us to Sweet 16, we were talked down to as though we were all losers in a failing district...and I quote, "We will coach you UP or coach you OUT" All this before EVER getting to know us. These people were hired to UNITE 2 districts, NOT fix some problem that doesnt even exist (They aren't qualified to fix anything anyway...Mr. Bynum doesn't even have a doctorate, yet he is our superintendent) I refuse to work for such an environment when I can drive 40 minutes and work in Richland County for more pay. We are college educated, highly qualified professionals. Stop treating us like scum. Teacher morale is lower than I've ever seen it. I know teachers who have not slept well, who have developed high blood pressure, and who are retiring earlier than they ever anticipated to "get out." Parents, we desperately need you to keep up this fight. Contact the Item over and over until they do some real investigating. Contact Phil Leventis and let him know your opinion. Don't assume others are doing it. Thank you to those of you who have already joined the fight. It means so much!

    3. To the parent who asked the above question: I understand that it must be confusing to some parents to try to understand why this audit is so frustrating to teachers. You kind of have to be an educator to really get it unless you've heard all of the details about why Sweet 16 is such a problem. It would take a while to explain the many, many reasons it is a negative thing for teachers. Contrary to what Mr. Bynum is saying, it serves no new purpose. Every "purpose" given for Sweet 16 is already being met in our Sumter schools through other channels. Let's try to put it in another context and see if it makes more sense. Most jobs have some type of annual evaluation process; if you are employed, you probably have some sort of review. Picture your own job and this scenario: imagine that in your job IN ADDITION TO THAT EXISTING EVALUATION PROCESS your new employer announced that you were also going to go through a new evaluation every year which would involve much additional work, energy, and time. And when your new employer announced this, it was done in a condescending, abrupt way before he even got to know you and your fellow employees. And when you saw the new evaluation instrument, you realized that there was no way you could possibly score well on it, even though everyone in your workplace knows you're the best at what you do. And every day when you go to work, instead of focusing on doing your job you spend hours trying to put into writing everything you're doing in order to try to prove that you're doing it. And when you get back your REAL evaluation that you've been doing for years, it's a great score with glowing comments, because you really are good at what you do. But when you get back your new kind of evaluation, it's not good. And you are frustrated because it contains inaccuracies and you have no way of telling your boss "but that's not true!" without losing your job. You are put it situations of discussing your new evaluation with your fellow employees that make you uncomfortable because you all know that what you're discussing is fake. You try to go through the proper channels to express your concerns about being treated this way, but your concerns are ridiculed and nothing changes. So you continue to try to do and prove all of the unrealistic expectations on the new evaluation at your workplace during the day and for hours when you get home at night. And after weeks of this you are so exhausted and stressed that you would give anything for your job to be like it used to be: your were an outstanding employee, and your boss recognized it. We teachers do not mind at all being observed, nor do we mind cooperating with the evaluation process that is already in place by the State Department of Education. I sincerely hope that in the near future there will be a time and place where teachers can openly speak about what we are going through and answer parents' questions. The saddest part of this is that when teachers are drained, depressed, and unhappy it is inevitable that it will begin to affect their students. Sweet 16 is only one of many factors that teachers are unhappy with this year. We love our students and we care about and respect the other teachers we work with. We just don't want to work in a place that robs us of the joy we've found in being teachers.

  37. As I understand it we need to be bringing all of this to Mr. Phil Leventis. He had a hand in merging the districts in the first place, and is that not from whence ALL of this began? Someone more informed than me needs to let the rest of us know who is above the school board? As I am figuring out, even if the school board wanted Bynum out they can't just 'vote him off the island." So there has to be someone above the board. Who is it? Which agency or counsel is it? I feel like these are questions that everyone knows the answers to but me. If someone would tell me, I would go forth! I'm a concerned parent, friend to teachers, but not one myself. I have nothing to lose in taking up the cause I just don't know to whom it should be taken!

  38. School Board members are elected. Anyone in an elected position can be recalled. Might I suggest that parents in Sumter County begin a recall petition of all school board members? They are obviously not responding to the crisis as they should as elected officials. Oust them pronto!!!!

  39. I have been asked to post this on the blog. It was originally a FB rant, but has been tweaked and added to. Going to have to do it in two parts, I hope the mod here can figure this out!

    for those Sumter-ites who are paying attention, you need to follow this link and vote. The 16 objectives of Sweet 16 are posted and on first read through they look great. On Second it seems a little redundant (like, couldn't we do this in 6 steps?) the third read through and you really begin to see that this is IMPOSSIBLE to implement in the classroom. Please go here and read through these 16 expectations and cast a vote.

    specifically I take issue with #11 The teachers formally and informally assess students' level of understanding during the lesson. ~you have 36 kids in your class learning how to complete a quadratic equation. Are you going to be able to both formally AND informally assess EACH child's level of understanding within the 50 minutes you have assigned for the lesson? Seriously??? I guess that gives about 5 minutes to teach the lesson and the remainder to assess, individually, who got it. Oh and keep your class focused and interested while you're assessing the students on EACH lesson.

    #12 Questions go beyond simple recall and require students to think, synthesize, evaluate and conclude. Students are required to explain their responses and answers. ~Um, what if you're doing a times table drill? I don't know that critical thinking and conclusions need to be drawn for "Tommy what is 8x7?" Are we to do away with rote memory all together?? The ability to memorize small amounts of information is critical in every day life and if we don't practice that skill we lose it. Really how many of us can remember our second cousin's phone number anymore? We can't because its in our cell phones...what happens if your kid leaves said cell phone in his pocket and it get washed in the washer....AGAIN?? Now how ya gonna know if you have to pick her up for school in the morning...JUST SAYIN'

    ‎#13 Re-teaching activities are provided for students who need additional instruction. ~ and this is going to happen before or after we have assessed all 36 students to see if they got it? Isn't this why we have tutoring programs??? OOOOHHH...yeh, Mr. Bynum is in real favor of cutting those. So again I ask, exactly when during the class period is the re-teaching supposed to take place?

  40. #14 is my favorite: Students are informed as to how well they followed directions, completed tasks and were likely to achieve the lesson objective. ~So, let me get this straight. We taught in record time, we assessed to know if each student got it, we re-taught the ones who didn't, assessed again, and now we give commentary as to how likely they were to have achieved the objective?? HOW. ON. EARTH does this process work in the real world where objects fall downward toward earth and pigs don't actually take flight??

    I started out just hoping to be supportive of those in teaching with whom I have relationships but as a special education dropout from Winthrop (went all the way until my last semester), even I can see this is a redundant piece of.....unusable verbiage. It all sounds really good, it sounds like someone who has read a lot of books and been to a lot of seminars and wants to turn our classrooms into little executive board rooms.

    Going beyond the fact that these items of the Sweet 16 plan are not implementable is the fact that teachers are going to be evaluated by these standards which are IMPOSSIBLE to meet. So what? Some may ask. Here's what: We have some AMAZING teachers in Sumter. Teachers who know they can drive 45 minutes and make a significantly higher wage than they do, but they stay right here because they love this community and are committed to it. If we allow them to be measured against an impossible standard, then their evaluations will not accurately show how talented they are. These evaluations become part of their permanent records and follow them through promotions or relocations. All teachers need to be evaluated, classroom standards need to be met and students need to learn, but we can't measure teachers against this construct. It simply isn't possible. As I understand Broad, these unachievable expectations are used to lower morale and weed teachers out. The ones who remain are the ones who either are more concerned with career movement or just can't afford to lose their jobs.

    One thing I continually see in the Broad style are framings such as "improving student achievement," and "excellence." How about good ole fashioned LEARNING? In this drive to succeed and create little Bill Gates clones, we are forgetting that Bill Gates had something long before he cracked open a GUI empire; he had a DESIRE to learn. If THAT becomes our focus, the achievement will follow. I am distressed to think of my 10 year old in a class room concerned about his "achievement" or his "standard of excellence" we can't pit our kids against one another in the class room, there will be plenty of time for that when they become old folks like us taking up this banner for their own children's futures.

    I leave you with ONE thought: If classroom teachers are to take all this individual time ensuring that each child is heard and responded to, can't our Superintendent who is pushing all this rhetoric give us, the parents, teachers and staff, the same courtesy?

    E Weekes

  41. The Sweet 16 is ONE day and ONE lesson....it is not how it sounds. They do not look at anything else. The evaluate based on that ONE Day, ONE Lesson!

  42. The Item has a poll online. The 16 main points of Sweet 16. They sound fine don't they? And, yes they are things that a teacher does naturally anyway. The kicker is that we are to do them ALL in one lesson. Little time is then left over for actually teaching and learning. Look at the parking lots of our school buildings. We are there early and leave late. Here are the points from The Item's poll, with short explanations added:

    1.The instructional activities, materials and resources are ready prior to lesson start and are appropriately aligned to the grade-level lesson objective......... (This is a given. Teachers have this ready ahead of time; the only problem that I see here is no supply money to buy paper or other items that are needed.)

    2.The lesson standard is clearly visible and is effectively communicated to all students. The lesson objective is aligned to the grade-level standard...........Here is an example of a math standard:The student will demonstrate through the mathematical processes an understanding of the use of patterns, relations, functions, models, structures, and algebraic symbols to represent quantitative relationships and will analyze change in various contexts.......The teacher must have the standards posted in the room. It must be effectively communicated........ that means that the teacher must go over the standard with the class. Bear in mind that the teacher must also communicate the objective and the essential question to the class. All of this takes time away from learning time.
    3.The teacher reviews students' understanding of the previous lesson to make connections to current instruction........... This makes sense, until you find out that this also must be done each and every lesson. Sometimes it just doesn't fit...... Plus, the teacher must discuss what was done previouly, go over the standard, discuss what will be done today, and at the end again review the lesson and discuss what will be done tomorrow...... More time..... Yes, yes, yes.... teachers do this sort of thing often, but not all of them every single day.
    4.The teacher demonstrates his or her knowledge of the subject matter by effectively modeling what students are to know and be able to do. The teacher applies and connects what was taught to real-life situations........ This is fine, except for the fact that with jumping through all of the Sweet 16 hoops during a class period, the teacher has time to explain/demonstrate maybe 2 math problems during the class period.
    5.The variety of learning activities and teaching strategies reflects the teacher's understanding of students' needs, strengths, special interests, learning styles and required learning time.............. Choice assignments.... yes, differentiation is wonderful, but not for each and every day................ Years ago, students within an elementary school class were in different reading groups........ Now teachers are expected to juggle this for every subject area and in every grade level.........
    6.With grouping strategies, the teacher assures that students are provided with opportunities to be group leaders, facilitators, decision leaders, peer tutors and peer leaders...................... teachers were told that they must group every single day! Cooperative learning is a great strategy, but not for every lesson. Teachers were told that students must be working together in groups. What happens, especially with the less ambitous students is that they sit back and don't learn. They wait for the others to do the work........ This is essentially impossible to do on a daily basis.......
    7.The skills, concepts and content are appropriately aligned to state and local performance standards and are taught at appropriate levels of complexity.............. Teachers are given a curriculum to follow that bounces students from one part of a book to another.........

  43. 8.A variety of technology is used to engage students in lesson-related activities............... We use techology, when it works. The district office can deny it all it wants to, but there are still MANY technology issues within the schools. Just ask about the most recent library system issues that they are covering up.
    9.Connections are presented within and across content areas by the teacher and students....... This should be a natural process..... mentioning math connections during a science lesson or during social studies pointing out the map scale which might be inches to miles. Now teachers are expected to do this for every single lesson.
    10.The teacher maintains a well-managed learning environment that fosters equity, diversity and fairness........ The observer keeps a log that is divided into 5 minute increments. How many students are off task is recorded each time. (How the observer can keep up with this and transcribe the lesson is beyond me......)All that a teacher can do is ask a student to please wake up and pay attention to the lesson. There are students with issues who simply will not cooperate. They hate the world and especially school.
    11.The teachers formally and informally assess students' level of understanding during the lesson............... Teachers have been told that they must assign homework every day! That's just not good practice........ Accessing formally is a test or assignment. Informally is questioning. Questioning is a natural part of teaching. But, remember, there is very little time for the "meat" of the lesson when jumping through all of these hoops.
    12.Questions go beyond simple recall and require students to think, synthesize, evaluate and conclude. Students are required to explain their responses and answers................ Sounds great....... exit questions.... but what about plain old recall. What about the multiplcation facts, spelling, grammar, memorizing facts........
    13.Re-teaching activities are provided for students who need additional instruction........ Teachers offer extra after and before school time.......... with so little time to teach a concept, almost everyone needs reteaching, but they don't all show up for the extra help..... Remember, this extra help time takes away from the teacher's time to plan and get things ready for the next day or week.
    14.Students are informed as to how well they followed directions, completed tasks and were likely to achieve the lesson objective...... Teachers must post work inside and outside of the classroom. This is a given, especially for elementary classrooms.... Now, each paper must have personal comments on it. The grading criteria must be posted with the work.
    15.Homework and follow-up assignments are differentiated to meet the varying needs and strengths of the students...... Every student must have different assignments....................
    16.A review of the lesson objective, feedback regarding students' understanding of what was taught and a preview of the next lesson is provided.... This is good practice also, but there is not always time to fit it all into every class period. Sometimes, lessons extend to the next day, especially if group work was involved. Maybe students are working on a research paper or a poetry project.

    Unless you are a teacher, you might think something like, "Wow, all of this sounds great." It does, until you get into the details. What you see above is only the tip of the iceburg........ Teaching is an art. Let the teachers of the Sumter School District practice their art. How much money and how many thousands of hours have already been wasted on this instrument of intimidation called Sweet 16?

    1. If the item were truly unbiased and dedicated to good journalism, both sides of the issue would be reported. The public needs to be able to read these comments in the paper in order to get the whole picture.

  44. It seems to me someone from outside of lcoal education needs to get involved. In other parts of the world, the news media can work wonders if they so choose. A local newspaper for instance may gain some readership (subscriptions$) if they did a little investigative reporting. News outlets in Columbia,for example love to report on the problems of other communities. Don't let this travisty die, we may be able to get qualified administrators AND board members this fall. One school year has been sacrificed already, don't let another fall. I appologize for backing consolidation and not getting involved in hiring a cabinet. Signed, A concerned Grandparent of SSD students.

  45. How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus (Asteriks are appended to the symptons that Sumter School District already displays.)

    Schools in your district are suddenly closed.

    Even top-performing schools, alternative schools, schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

    *Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

    *Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)

    *The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

    *Power is centralized.

    *Decision-making is top down.

    *Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

    *Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

    *Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

    *Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

    Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

    Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

    Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. *District pushes to standardize the curriculum.

    Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts.

    Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

    The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers!

    *Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

    1. The REACH program is no longer available. What's next?

  46. More Virus Symptons:
    Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers.

    The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

    *Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

    *There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

    *Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

    A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

    Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.

    *The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”

    *Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.)

    *Superintendent bypasses school board entirely and keeps them out of the loop on significant or all issues.

    School board candidates receive unprecedented amounts of campaign money from business interests.

    *Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.”

    *Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.

    *Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”

    Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district.

  47. In talking with a school administrator from one of Bynum's former school districts, a district that has also been infected by the Broad virus, he stated:

    "Broad sends their people into school districts and communities that won't ask questions."

    Gee, what does that say about our school board, our chamber of commerce, our elected officals and our local newspaper?"

    This is definitely not Sumter, South Carolina's, finest hour!

  48. The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required)..................... Ah, it dawns on me now. This is what Dixon and Norman are! Broad Residents," but they are making more than $90,000 each.

  49. http://chaplinspeaks.blogspot.com/2012/02/sumters-problem-could-be-charlestons.html?spref=fb