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Sumner takes oath as board member

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New alternative school ‘a work in progress,’ official says at meeting

By Chris Sardelli

New District 4 Lancaster County school board member Bill Sumner was sworn in during a brief ceremony before the start of the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday night.
Sumner was elected in November in a special election to replace former board member Dr. Peter Barry, who died in September.
County Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond administered the oath.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Bill Sumner to the board,” District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said. “We’ve got a great board and we think Bill will bring a lot to the table.”
Sumner is a longtime Lancaster resident known for his service to the community. He is a former Lancaster City Council member, who served between 2003 and 2008. He also served as Lancaster’s police chief from 1985 to 1995.
Most recently, Sumner was known for his work with Lancaster Children’s Home.
“It’s an honor for me to be able to serve with all of you,” Sumner told those gathered at the swearing in. “I pledge to all of you I will always do what is fair and right and what makes a difference in (students’) educations.”
Sumner will serve the two year’s remaining in  Barry’s term before facing re-election.
Alternative                 program update
The school district’s revamped middle school alternative program is up and running with organizers hoping to have a high school program in place next semester.
The announcement came just over six months after the district shuttered its former alternative program, Eastside Academy, as a cost-saving measure.
The new program is called the Barr Street Learning Center and is located at the old Barr Street School. The program opened Nov. 29.
“It is a work in progress,” said Dr. Carolyn Jordan, executive director of instructional services for the school district. “Our goal is to provide a high-quality, cost-effective alternative education program focused on meeting the educational needs of students who are not successful in their current school setting.”
Jordan said the school opened with four students and now has 16 in grades six through eight from four of the district’s five middle schools.
Students attend classes on-site and receive instruction in all content areas, attend computer lab and receive counseling.
Jordan said an example of the “work in progress” is that while students are expected to adhere to district discipline and dress codes, site administrator Kevin Cauthen has recently developed an additional discipline plan that includes a system to reward positive behavior.
The school is staffed by morning and afternoon shifts of part-time instructors, a key component in the new school’s cost-effectiveness model. Most of the former program’s $350,000 annual budget went to pay salaries and related employee benefits.
The district’s goal is to operate the program in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, if not less.
“We’re probably going to have to wait and see how it works out in cost savings,” Jordan said.
Though the high school component is still in the planning stages, Jordan told board members the general plan is for the program to operate on a late afternoon and evening schedule.
Instruction would be primarily computer-assisted with certified teachers, Jordan said.
“If they’re not there, where will they be up until that point?” board member Janice Dabney asked of expelled students.
“Just be at home,” Jordan said. “It would not be a school day, it would be an extension of the school day.”
Moore said one goal of the program is for high school principals to identify and work with students who were on track and beginning to have trouble.
“We’re hoping to get more students in the pipeline to keep them from getting expelled,” Moore said.
Facilities update
Board members also received an update on the district’s project to build restrooms at county high school softball and baseball fields.
David Small, facilities director for the school district, said though cold weather slowed the pace of construction, contractors have placed tents over the projects and continue working.
He said concrete slabs have been poured and electrical and plumbing infrastructure put in place.
“I feel good where we’re at,” Small said.
Small said a project at Andrew Jackson High School to build practice fields is back on track.
The project was suspended earlier this year due to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control concerns over wetlands. The concerns were remedied by the construction of two retention ponds, Small said.
Bids are now being accepted for the construction of the practice fields.

Contact Reece Murphy at rmurphy@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151