Superintendent Choates Hurts 375 Sumter County Students To Start The New School Year

August 2019

Rick Barnes

Sumter County School Board member who allegedly is more interested in the charter school.

Dr. Torrance Choates

The beleaguered Sumter County School Superintendent.

Jim Reid

Sumter County School Board member allegedly controls Superintendent Choates.

By Paul Krugman

The Americus Sumter Observer investigative team interviewed several parents, teachers, former superintendents,
and students. Our interviews revealed several horrifying cases in which innocent students’ rights were violated.

The policy for promotions and retention require the committee (teachers who taught the students) recommend whether a student advances to the next grade (also called “Placed”). The superintendent must abide by the committee’s recommendations. Dr Torrance Choates, Sumter County School Superintendent, decided to retain students that the committee said could be placed and moved to the next grade. He could be sanctioned for violating professional standards when he ignored the committee’s recommendations.

We asked career professional educators (superintendents, principals, etc.) about social promotion and retention of students and they found retention doesn’t work and is worse than social promotion. The school system was never designed for teaching a student 2 years in the same grade, according to our sources.

What our investigation shows is that several students passed the regular courses with A’s and B’s, but because they failed a part of the “Milestone” standardized test, Choates retained them. He put more weight on the test than what the student learned during the school year. Also, he ignored the judgment of teachers
who taught the students and reversed their decision to promote those students.

‘Choates created so much confusion with his diabolical scheme to keep student back. We are told many teachers did not know he kept their students back. The students received one of two letters; if the letter came from the school principals, it was for retention. If the letter came from the committee of teachers, the child is promoted to the next grade. When the child didn’t pass the “Milestone” test, the parents were told by word of mouth and some received letters. If that didn’t insult the children enough, he was offering them another standardized test to take called the “Star” test. Can you imagine another test given at such short notice for a student to take after failing the first standardized test? In Choates sick mind he called himself giving them another chance to pass a test.

The publisher of the Observer, Dr John Marshall, spoke with Dr Choates by phone and asked him why he would put so much weight on the test and less weight on classroom work. Choates responded, “Five superintendents
before me just passed these students along to the next grade when they couldn’t do the work of the grades they are in.” Dr Marshall asked him,” how can teachers who were not able to get last year’s students to goal, can possibly help twice that number of students this school year. It is obvious he didn’t listen to me and several parents who asked why he would make that many students repeat their grades,” Marshall said.

Dr Choates came to Sumter County from Baker County where our newspaper discovered that he left that school system in shambles. He battled with staff and parents; students even protested him. He was recruited to Sumter County by a school board that is majority White. Since coming here, he has run many certified teachers away and is left with several teachers without teaching certificates because of the teacher shortage created by him. His poor leadership has many teachers leaving and recruiting new teachers is difficult given his reputation, according to several local teachers.

“The Sumter County School Board is majority White. Two board members, Rick Barnes and Jim Reid, have an allegedly inordinate amount of influence over Dr Choates, according to several sources who asked to remain anonymous. We have reported in the Observer that the majority White school board members are more interested in the charter schools than the majority Black student population. They voted to increase the Sumter County Charter School enrollment to 100,” according to Dr. Marshall.

The Black students who have to repeat their grades will be labeled as failures. There is a strong possibility they will drop out of school.

We want the parents to know that Dr Choates has violated their children’s rights. Reverend Matt Wright, president of the Sumter County NAACP, welcomes parents to bring their cases to our local branch at 217 Forrest Street. Call 229 924 0880 and set up an appointment.