Dr. Frank Baker has been named the interim superintendent for the Sumter School District by the board of trustees at its special meeting Monday night.By a 5-2 vote, the trustees decided to offer the former superintendent of Sumter School District 2 the district head position, to begin as soon as possible. As part of the motion to appoint Baker, the trustees also decided, by a 4-3 vote, to not consider Baker when they begin the process of finding a permanent replacement to fill the superintendent's position.Speaking from his home Monday night, Baker said he had not yet received the official offer from the district, but that he was going to accept the position.
"I plan to be ready to report to work in the morning," Baker said, adding that he hopes the local education community will be able to come together after what he felt had been a difficult time. "We need some healing to go on here," Baker said.
Baker will replace Randolph Bynum, who last week announced his plans to resign after serving two years as the consolidated district's inaugural superintendent. Bynum had been under increasing pressure as discontent with his leadership with the public education community grew.
Before the votes and the 60-minute executive session behind closed doors where the trustees debated their course of action, Chairman Keith Schultz told the meeting crowd of about 150 people in the Alice Drive Middle School gymnasium that Bynum would be using unused vacation time from now until Aug. 30, essentially ending his time as the district head.
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For Baker, one of the first steps he plans to take is to review the district's organizational makeup and make changes where necessary. "Frankly, we have some personnel components that need to be addressed," Baker said, although he did not say what those changes might be.
Earlier on Monday, Chief Operations Officer Robert Hutchens and Chief of Schools Dr. Cassandra Dixon both announced they would be leaving the district in the coming weeks.
Baker also said he did not have any plans to introduce any new methodologies or systems when he begins his new tenure. "I'm a firm believer that we don't need any new programs coming in," Baker said. "We need to see where we are and where we stand and stay the course."A large bulk of the discontent expressed against the Bynum administration came from dissatisfaction among teachers over SWEET 16, a school auditing program written and operated by Dixon, and the standards-based report cards initiated for the kindergarten through second grade students last year. Both programs were championed by Bynum and were spearheaded by district officials the former superintendent brought with him from his previous post as an assistant superintendent in Atlanta.
Monday's meeting was the third time the board met in eight days and their second since former Bynum announced his plans last week to resign. While not discussing the details of the conversation behind closed doors, Schultz said this executive session was "energized." Still, despite spending more than 10 hours in executive session over the past month debating the issues of the district, it was clear during their vote that the trustees had not come to a unanimous agreement.
While Schultz, along with trustees Daryl McGhaney, Karen Michalik, Larry Addison and Barbara Jackson voted in favor of hiring Baker, trustees Ralph Canty and Patty Wilson did not, with Canty insisting during the vote that he get the chance to go on the record and officially express his disapproval of the motion, which prompted a smattering of boos from the crowd.
In addition, before the vote on the official motion to hire Baker, Addison made the motion to not consider Baker for the permanent position. Addison was supported in his amendment by Schultz, Wilson and Canty, which eliminates Baker from receiving the post on a more permanent basis in the future.McGhaney, who officially made the motion to hire Baker, admitted the past few meetings had become emotional for the board, but that he thinks the new interim superintendent is the right choice for Sumter at this time.
"I've worked with Dr. Baker for years. I know what he can do," McGhaney said. "We need someone at this juncture to come in and pick us up from this point and move us forward, and I'm confident that Dr. Frank Baker is that individual." Contact Braden Bunch @ (803) 774-1201.