Sumter’s Journey to Educational Equity
Updated: Jan 29
Featured in Sumter Living Magazine
Pulling onto School Street in 1949, you would have come upon Liberty Street Elementary School, the first 1st through 6th-grade public school for African-Americans in Sumter. 72 years later in 2021, Liberty STEAM Charter School (LSC), Sumter’s first public charter school, opened its doors to 192 diverse scholars, in that exact location.
The rebirth of this historic property along with the LSC’s logo, the torch, symbolizes hope and empowerment to the children and families here in Sumter County. Our torch, just as our Statue of Liberty’s torch gave hope to many people coming to America, is a constant reminder of the power of choice our community now has.
LSC provides our community with promise for our child’s futures. We embrace diverse communities, cultures, identities, and abilities of all scholars and help them foster character strengths essential for their own success, empowering them to express their voices confidently and improve the world around them. We are proud to represent the community we serve, serving 337 scholars in grades kindergarten through second, with the breakdown of our scholar profile being 60% minority, 60% Free/Reduced Lunch, 10% Special Education Services (SPED), and 11% Military.
Greg A. Thompson, Board Chairman shared, “we started Liberty because, in the rural south, everyone realizes today that a great public education is very challenging to achieve, and Sumter is no different. And so we wanted to start Liberty with the goal in mind to be the number one public school in the state of South Carolina to provide high-quality education to our citizens of Sumter and the surrounding region.”
Our vision is grounded in having partnerships with our local community that push the educational experience that our scholars have. Throughout our academic program, we want to ensure that we have game-changing opportunities inside and outside the classroom for every scholar. We encourage them to grow in our three core values: passion for growth, power of the team, and stand up and own it.
Our model prepares scholars with the academic foundation to pursue college studies or the career track and live a choice-filled life. Furthermore, we ensure that they will leave high school with real-world skills and habits to succeed in industry careers that offer meaningful salaries, aiming to produce upstanding, productive citizens for Sumter County.
Passion for Growth
We are developing tomorrow’s leaders who will contribute to the economic well-being of their communities and families, and we take that very seriously. We create clearly defined, measurable high expectations for our scholars to promote academic achievement and good conduct, ultimately creating and reinforcing a culture of achievement and support. And our scholars are eager to deliver. Last year, our academic achievement from our scholars consisted of:
Kindergarten Math | 73%
Kindergarten Reading | 82%
1st Grade Math | 84%
1st Grade Reading | 70%
Kindergarten Reading Level Growth | 4.0
1st Grade Reading Level Growth | 6.0
Kindergarten - 1st Grade Spanish | 82%
Kindergarten - 1st Grade STEAM | 83%
The community's most significant gift is the precious resource of their children. But they also support us financially, partner with us, provide us with resources, and allow us to see all the wonderful things that the city of Sumter offers. In return for the community's generosity, we would like to give back engaged citizens and advocates for everything that makes our community a special place. With their help, we are able to provide our scholars with opportunities and experiences such as Mixed Martial Arts, gardening, dance, Spanish, French, and coding.
Karen Gaines, mother to Orlando said, “as parents raising a young African American son in a world like today, we want him to have the best opportunity at a quality education. LSC prepares scholars for educational excellence with the community’s strong support, a clear vision, and an environment that will bring forth the next generation of leaders, educators, and employers. I have always believed that when a community invests in a child, the return on that investment is so valuable. They will remember what the community did for them, which encourages the giving cycle to repeat itself all over again.”
Power of Team
When we work as a team, we do better as a collective. Our charter requires a minimum of two service-learning projects to be executed annually. These projects strengthen our community, enhance engagement, and enrich the lives of our LSC family. Last year, 100% of our scholars participated in one or more of the following academy-wide service-learning projects. We had 45 volunteer hours completed by scholars and 650 hours completed by parents. This includes programs and events such as our holiday canned food drive, Wreaths Across America, community-wide litter pick-up events, military care packages, and American Heart Association fundraiser.
We put considerable emphasis on partnering with our parents. We are in the business of putting our scholars' needs first, and our parents help us do just that. Through communication and collaboration with our parents, we can provide their scholars with consistency and support in their learning experience, allowing them to reach their fullest potential. Here were our end-of-year family engagement survey results:
100% of Parents Are Satisfied With Their Scholar’s Progress
99% Satisfied with the Home-School Relationship
96% Recommend LSC to Others
98% Agree LSC Sets Rigorous Expectations for Scholars
96% of Parents Say LSC Is More Than Preparing Their Scholar for the Next School Year
Tatiana Reyes, an LSC Lead Teacher said, “The parents ultimately get the choice, and they're choosing us. They're choosing the resources and buying into what we're trying to create. And we are trying to ensure that every scholar who comes onto an LSC campus has the same access and resources. We provide educational equity through access. It's motivating to see that we're working together for the best outcome for their scholars."
Stand Up & Own It
Every day, when our scholars walk through our doors, they make a choice to receive the best education possible from our highly qualified teachers and staff. Once they're in our classrooms, we build choice into their day, developing their ability to make independent, educated decisions from a very young age. Our goal is to create flexible learning environments to meet the diverse needs of our scholars.
At Liberty, we believe in building a community around the joy factor while pursuing growth and celebrating culture. Our weekly community days at the eagle’s nest are where scholars receive lessons on valuable social-emotional learning skills and are exposed to various unique enrichment activities allowing them to express their individuality.
Supporting our scholars socially and emotionally allows them to focus on embracing productive discomfort, staying focused, being coachable, and trying new things. Each week one scholar from each of our classrooms is recognized in the celebration for representing different facets of our cultural expectations: showing respect, obeying rules, accepting responsibility, and rising to excellence. Their families join us in making the celebration more memorable by delivering their golden shirts and sharing a letter with their class.
Sandra Dervin, mother to George, Jr. said, "our scholar loves learning, asking questions, and being exposed to new things. We believe that LSC delivers on what he wants his education to be, and we can see that he is taking it all in and that he loves coming to school. His teachers keep us well informed through various forms of technology and communication. We appreciate the proactive communication because it ensures that he can be heading in the right direction both at home and in the classroom."
The Need for LSC is Great in Sumter, SC
While scholars and teachers work hard to close the opportunity and equity gap for education in Sumter, we have a significant need to support our mission in the coming five years to open four life-changing academies.
We plan to offer our LSC team and family members world-class instructional spaces. To support the needs of almost 2,000 scholars at scale, we will focus specifically on areas of high need we do not receive state funding for, such as transportation, uniforms, or after-school programming. Your support will help close this gap, so we can continue to close the opportunity gaps for our scholars and create academies that our scholars, families, and teachers deserve.
The need is urgent; thus, the time to act is now. In creating a charter school where rigor, joy, and community are the essential keys to success, we are on a mission to change the narrative about what is possible for the children of Sumter County so that every child is equally positioned to succeed emotionally, academically, and socially. Because of you, LSC can provide various programs, services, and opportunities to our scholars and teachers. Your support makes a difference not only in our school but also in our community.
Interested in volunteering? firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in enrolling your scholar? email@example.com
Interested in joining LSC's team? firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in becoming a financial sponsor? email@example.com
Brooke Thibodaux Summerford is the owner of B Marketing, a boutique creative marketing firm that focuses on online and offline storytelling for small businesses. She has dedicated her career to building client relationships, understanding the needs of their clients and their businesses, and creating pieces that tell their stories.