When is the Right Time to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Sumter, SC


If you have been accused of a crime, the only thing standing between your continued freedom and harsh legal penalties is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer in Sumter, SC. That may seem harsh, but in this time of turmoil and uncertainty, having a skilled and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side is key. Because the truth is that dealing with legal charges in Sumter can be a highly distressing ordeal, with even minor violations causing a considerable impact on an individual's personal and work life. The repercussions of having a criminal record can be severe, leading to loss of employment, severed relationships, and even alienation from loved ones.

At Theos Law Firm, we offer trustworthy legal representation to those who need it most. Our criminal defense team has years of experience and is committed to ensuring our clients maintain their freedom and can move forward with their lives. From handling drug-related charges to more nuanced federal cases and sexual misconduct offenses, we take a personalized approach to every case. By utilizing cutting-edge legal strategies and decades of combined experience, we have a much better opportunity to achieve the best possible client outcomes.

Service Areas

We help clients overcome criminal charges in a wide range of cases, including the following:

  • Homicides
  • Drug Crimes
  • Juvenile Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • Theft Crimes
  • Theft Crimes
  • Violent Crimes
  • Misdemeanor Offenses
  • Federal Offenses
  • More

If you are facing one or more of the charges above, it's imperative that you establish contact with a legal advocate ASAP. At Theos Law, you can rest easy knowing our phone line is always open. When your future is up for grabs, let our team of criminal defense lawyers fight for your rights. It all starts with a free consultation at our law firm in Sumter, where we'll educate you on the particulars of the charges you're facing and explain the next steps ahead.

At this point, you probably have many questions in mind. Keep reading for more information on criminal law in South Carolina and some of our criminal defense specialties at Theos Law.

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Understanding Criminal Defense Cases in South Carolina


In South Carolina, criminal cases are classified into different categories based on the severity of the crime. Generally speaking, offenses that carry a maximum sentence of three years or less are categorized as misdemeanors. On the other hand, crimes that carry a punishment of more than three years in prison are generally classified as felonies.

State and Federal Criminal Defense Cases in South Carolina

Crimes in The Palmetto State are usually split into two categories: state crimes and federal crimes. Classifications are based on whether a crime violates state laws or federal laws. Ultimately, it's up to the prosecutor to decide which category to pursue charges under. State crimes generally include assault, robbery, domestic violence, theft, and rape. Federal crimes, on the other hand, may be more complex and can include computer crime, major drug trafficking, hate crimes, and money laundering. These types of crimes are often investigated by agencies like the FBI or IRS.

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The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies in South Carolina

Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony crime can be challenging for someone facing their first charge. Misdemeanors are generally considered minor offenses, resulting in fines or a short stay in a local county jail. Trials and plea deals for these cases move quickly due to their nature.

Conversely, felonies are more severe crimes classified by degrees, with first-degree being the most severe and sixth-degree being the least. Those charged with a felony may face significant fines and a prison sentence of over a year in a federal or state institution. Convicted felons may face difficulties after their release, making it crucial to have a reliable criminal defense attorney in Sumter, SC.

Plea Deals in South Carolina

It is not uncommon for legal cases to be resolved outside of court through a plea deal. This allows the defendant to acknowledge their guilt on one or more charges without the need for a trial. Both your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor collaborate to come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement, which helps avoid the uncertainties and dangers of a trial. By accepting a plea deal, you may receive a lighter sentence and avoid the anxiety that comes with a lengthy legal battle.

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When is the Right Time to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Sumter, SC?


At Theos Law Firm, we often receive questions from potential clients about when they should hire a criminal defense attorney for the charges that they're facing. Although each situation and client are unique, there are some common criminal situations to keep in mind. In general, it's always best to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as you're charged or have been arrested.

Below are some guidelines to help you decide when it's necessary to retain a criminal defense attorney for your case in South Carolina.

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When You've Been Accused or Charged

Thinking about hiring a criminal defense lawyer when you're charged with a crime is a no-brainer for most, and for good reason. A defense lawyer can offer assistance with various offenses, ranging from minor crimes like retail theft and cyberstalking to more serious ones such as sexual assault and manslaughter. Regardless of the charges, navigating the legal system can be complex, and without the guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the situation can escalate rapidly.

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When Investigators or Police Question You

As you may have observed in movies or television shows, the police might request you to provide a statement, giving the impression that you are not under arrest. If they suspect you of committing a crime but lack sufficient evidence to detain you, they may aim to put you at ease and elicit information that can be used against you. Remember, it is within your rights to have a criminal defense attorney in Sumter, SC, present during questioning, and you should absolutely use that to your advantage.

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When Authorities Search Your Residence

In the event that law enforcement officers arrive at your residence with a warrant, it indicates that a judge has determined there is reasonable suspicion that evidence related to a criminal offense is present in your home. Regardless of whether they discover and confiscate anything, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a seasoned defense attorney to discuss the situation and receive assistance in determining any potential charges or locations they may investigate in the future.

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When You Are Wrongly Accused of Committing a Crime

Could you imagine being accused of something you didn't do? When law enforcement, a judge, or a prosecutor accuses you of committing a crime that you didn't do, it can be an arduous task to prove your innocence, especially if you have a prior record. It can also feel hopeless and like it's impossible for you to get someone to listen to your side. The truth is that your past mistakes should not be used against you. To increase your chances of being cleared of charges, it's advisable to have a defense lawyer who can support your innocence and fight for your rights. Criminal defense attorneys at Theos Law don't just listen - we act swiftly and always with your best interests at heart.

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When Your Child Is Involved

The legal system for juveniles in South Carolina is different than it is for adults. It comes with its own complications and hurdles to overcome. If you think or know that your child has been accused of a crime, it's imperative to get legal counsel swiftly. Failure to do so could ruin their life or result in a longer-than-needed jail sentence.

Keep reading to learn more about just a few of the most common criminal defense cases we accept at Theos Law Firm.

Criminal Defense for DUIs in South Carolina


In terms of common criminal offenses in South Carolina, DUIs top the list, especially regarding mindful drivers with clean driving records and no criminal history. Unfortunately for these drivers, a DUI conviction in South Carolina stays on your record and cannot be expunged. Even first-time offenses with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent can be costly. Your insurance premiums go up for years, you may end up paying almost $1,000 in fines and fees, and there's a good chance you'll have to perform community service or serve jail time.

If your breathalyzer test result is more than .15%, you refuse the breathalyzer, or it is recorded as a refusal, your license will be automatically suspended, which complicates matters further. Throw in the possibility of interlock device rental, and your life may never be the same. For those reasons alone, it is crucial to approach such charges with the help of a DUI defense lawyer. At Theos Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience in successfully fighting these types of charges.

Fortunately, if you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, there is hope. That's especially true if the accused has undergone a breath or blood test for DUI. In fact, cases that involve such tests are successfully beaten every day. At Theos Law Firm, we will thoroughly investigate your DUI case in Sumter and explore every possible angle to have it dismissed.

To begin that process, your criminal defense lawyer in Sumter, SC, may seek answers to many questions, including:

  • Was your DUI stop legal? If not, your case could be thrown out.
  • Is there enough probable cause or evidence for an arrest? If there is not, it's possible to file a pre-trial motion for your case to be dismissed.
  • Did officers explain implied consent rights? One of the most common errors police make is failing to take this step.
  • Did the police maintain your BAC and breathalyzer results? Breath testing often comes with inherent weaknesses. This can create doubt in a juror's mind.
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Criminal Defense for Drug Cases in South Carolina


If you are dealing with drug-related crimes in Sumter or another city in South Carolina, it is crucial for you to understand the potential penalties involved. Possession of a controlled substance may fall under the category of a misdemeanor, but many drug offenses are considered felonies. Even a minor drug offense conviction can result in long-lasting negative consequences. As such, it's always advisable to explore your options and seek the assistance of a Sumter drug crime attorney. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help safeguard your rights and may help achieve a favorable outcome.

One of the most frequent questions we hear at Theos Law is, "What does possession mean?”

Drug charges based on possession in South Carolina are divided into three categories:

  • Simple Possession
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute
  • Drug Trafficking

However, the state also has other drug charges that are not based on the weight of the drugs. These include:

  • Drug Distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution Near Schools, Parks, or Playgrounds
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Possession-based drug charges in South Carolina are deemed "graduated offenses" with penalties that grow more severe based on the weight of the drugs. It's important to note that the charges can be based on either actual or constructive possession. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in Sumter, SC, today to learn more about the complexities involved with drug cases in Sumter and other cities in South Carolina.

Some of the most common drug charges we see at Theos Law include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD and Hallucinogens
  • Cocaine
  • Meth
  • Prescription Pain Killers
  • Fentanyl
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Can I be Arrested for Drug Paraphernalia in South Carolina?

The simple answer to this question is a resounding "Yes.” Drug paraphernalia can refer to various items such as pipes, bongs, syringes, scales, grinders, and rolling papers which are linked to drug usage, preparation, storage, or hiding. Even though some of these items may have legitimate uses, like tobacco pipes or medical syringes, they can still be scrutinized by law enforcement if there is proof of illegal drug use or intent.

Criminal Defense for Assault and Battery Cases in South Carolina


If you are facing assault and battery charges, it is possible that you haven't actually physically harmed someone. Many people associate assault and battery with brutal beatings, but that is just one example. There are other situations that are less severe than what people typically imagine.

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It's a common misunderstanding that physical injury is required for assault and battery charges. The fines, penalties, and jail time you may face depend on the severity of your charges and the number of offenses. Regardless of the degree of your charges, Assault and Battery is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. The consequences of a conviction can be life-changing, and as such, your criminal defense lawyer in Sumter, SC, should work relentlessly to fight the charges being levied against you.

Though this list isn't comprehensive, here are some of the biggest factors that dictate the severity of your assault and battery charges:

  • Age of Victim
  • Severity of Injuries Sustained
  • Size and Weight of Accused vs. Size and Weight of Victim
  • Whether or Not the Victim Presses Charges
  • Whether or Not Weapons Were Involved
  • Whether or Not the Victim's Privates Were Touched

Understanding the Degrees of Assault and Battery in South Carolina

Third Degree

Causing harm to someone or threatening to do so with the ability to carry out the threat can result in a charge of third-degree assault and battery. This misdemeanor offense is typically heard in municipal or magistrate courts and may carry a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.

Second Degree

Causing harm or making threats to harm someone that results in moderate bodily injury can lead to charges of second-degree assault and battery. Additionally, touching someone's private parts without their consent can also result in charges of assault and battery in the second degree. This misdemeanor offense is heard in General Session court and can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

First Degree

Assault and Battery in the first degree can involve a number of actions such as inflicting an unlawful injury when kidnapping, touching a person's privates "with lewd and lascivious intent,” and much more. Contact Theos Law Firm for more info on the degrees of Assault and Battery in South Carolina.

Everyone Deserves a Reliable Criminal Defense Attorney in Sumter, SC


At Theos Law firm, we work tirelessly to ensure that our client's rights are not overlooked. Because unfortunately, the rights of everyday citizens are often trampled by law enforcement oversights and legal system failures.

That's why every criminal defense lawyer at our firm works hard to provide guidance and support throughout the legal process by keeping you informed of updates and as comfortable as possible during this trying time. Benefits of hiring Theos Law Firm include:

  • Thorough Knowledge of South Carolina Criminal Law & Procedures
  • Seasoned Legal Representation in the Courtroom
  • Years of Experience Structuring Plea bargains
  • Ability to Identify Due Process Violations
  • Fierce Dedication to Clients & Vigorous Representation
  • Skilled Negotiation Tactics Involved with Bail, Sentencing, Appeals, and More
  • Familiarity with Local Prosecutors

Unlike some criminal defense law firms in South Carolina, our team believes that everyone deserves a great lawyer when their freedoms are on the line. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in South Carolina, trust Theos Law to have your back without judgment.

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Latest News in Sumter, SC

Tracking Coronavirus in Sumter County, S.C.: Latest Map and Case Count

Latest trendsHigher test positivity rates are a sign that many infections are not reported — even if they are tested for at home. This results in a more severe undercount of cases. The number of hospitalized patients with Covid is a more reliable measure because testing is more consistent in hospitals. Read more about the data....

Latest trends

Higher test positivity rates are a sign that many infections are not reported — even if they are tested for at home. This results in a more severe undercount of cases. The number of hospitalized patients with Covid is a more reliable measure because testing is more consistent in hospitals. Read more about the data.

In data for South Carolina, The Times primarily relies on reports from the state. The state releases new data once a week. It released new data daily until June 12, 2021, and new data all weekdays until March 15, 2022. The state reports cases and deaths based on a person’s permanent or usual residence.

The Times has identified reporting anomalies or methodology changes in the data.

The tallies on this page include probable and confirmed cases and deaths.

Confirmed cases and deaths, which are widely considered to be an undercount of the true toll, are counts of individuals whose coronavirus infections were confirmed by a molecular laboratory test. Probable cases and deaths count individuals who meet criteria for other types of testing, symptoms and exposure, as developed by national and local governments.

Governments often revise data or report a single-day large increase in cases or deaths from unspecified days without historical revisions, which can cause an irregular pattern in the daily reported figures. The Times is excluding these anomalies from seven-day averages when possible. For agencies that do not report data every day, variation in the schedule on which cases or deaths are reported, such as around holidays, can also cause an irregular pattern in averages. The Times uses an adjustment method to vary the number of days included in an average to remove these irregularities.

Sumter lands $66M plant — here’s what it will make

SEM Wafertech Inc. and Solar4America Technology Inc., both owned by renewable energy company SPI Energy Co. Ltd., will establish a presence in South Carolina with a $65.9 million investment in Sumter County.The company said today the solar panel manufacturing project will create 300 new jobs, according to a news release from the South Carolina Commerce Department.SEM Wafertech is a solar wafer manufacturer with headquarters in McClellan Park, Calif., near ...

SEM Wafertech Inc. and Solar4America Technology Inc., both owned by renewable energy company SPI Energy Co. Ltd., will establish a presence in South Carolina with a $65.9 million investment in Sumter County.

The company said today the solar panel manufacturing project will create 300 new jobs, according to a news release from the South Carolina Commerce Department.

SEM Wafertech is a solar wafer manufacturer with headquarters in McClellan Park, Calif., near Sacramento.

“As a global renewable energy company making American-made solar wafers and modules, we recognize the importance of having a strong domestic supply chain to meet the fast-growing demand for affordable solar power,” SEM Wafertech Inc. and Solar4America Technology Inc. Chairman Denton Peng said in the new release. “We plan to bring the highest quality domestically produced solar wafers and modules to market, enhancing our nation’s manufacturing capabilities with a long-term investment that will create good paying jobs for South Carolina.”

The new facility will help meet an increasing need for locally sourced solar wafers as the overall demand for solar power continues to grow in the United States, according to the news release. SEM Wafertech is targeting delivery and production of its first solar wafers in the nation by the end of the year, with capacity ramping to three gigawatts by 2024.

“I am personally thrilled to welcome SEM Wafertech and Solar4America to Sumter County, succeeding many exciting investments announced in recent months across South Carolina,” S.C. House speaker Murrell Smith said in the release. “With an investment of more than $65 million and the creation of 300 new jobs, SEM Wafertech and Solar4America will be welcome additions to the region, and to our state’s growing number of globally recognized renewable energy and EV-related companies — continuing to make our state’s economy diverse and prosperous. I welcome them to the Sumter family, where I know we will create an enduring partnership in our community.” Solar4America is a prime solar module manufacturing company that produces “Made in the USA” solar modules. In combination with its facility in Sacramento, the new South Carolina facility will allow Solar4America to manufacture a wider variety of solar panels for customers, with an aim to increase capacity to 2.4 gigawatts by the end of the year.

SEM Wafertech and Solar4America plan to occupy an existing building located at 1150 Clipper Road in Sumter, where they will design, build out and install a “world-class” silicon wafer slicing facility, the news release said. Silicon wafers produced in the facility will be used in a variety of applications, including photovoltaic cells and semiconductors. Solar panels will serve commercial, residential and industrial energy generation and storage needs.

Operations are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023. Individuals interested in joining the team should visit the company’s website.

“We are thrilled to add another company to our growing family of industrial leaders in Sumter and are enthusiastic about the corporate investment and jobs that will be a result of this project,” Sumter Mayor David Merchant said in the release. “The city of Sumter is also proud to partner with the company to support the needed infrastructure improvements for high quality industrial water and wastewater services.” The Commerce Department’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits related to this project. The council also awarded a $1.5 million Rural Infrastructure Fund grant to Sumter County to assist with the costs of water and wastewater improvements and building improvements.

This South Carolina Park Is The Only Spot In The U.S. To See All Eight Species Of Swans


Sumter, South Carolina has two big landmarks, Sandy Tomlinson—a retired teacher and long-time Sumter resident—says. The first is the town’s 125-year-old opera house with a stately clock tower that informs residents of the time from all four sides. The second is the world-famous Swan Lake Iris Gardens.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens is not your typical small-town botanical garden, though it certainly retains all of the charm and friendly feel. In fact, it’s the only public park in the United States where bird-lovers can find all eight species of swan. “It may be the only place in the whole world,” Sandy says, who dedicates her time to the continued beautification of the gardens on the Friends of Swan Lake Board.

The prolific garden spans 150 acres in downtown Sumter and plays host to Bewick’s Swans, Black (Australian) Swans, Black-Necked Swans, Coscoroba Swans, Mute Swans, Trumpeter Swans, Tundra Swans (also known as Whistling Swans), and Whooper Swans, all intentionally brought to South Carolina with the goal of cultivating a haven for swans. The eight species have now inhabited Swan Lake for decades and bring forth dozens of cygnets (baby swans) each spring. It’s not an uncommon sight for a mother swan (female swans are called “pens”) to cart her babies around the lake on her back come April and May.

The park was gifted to the town in 1949 under very specific instructions by two prominent businessmen: No one would ever be charged to visit Swan Lake. If at any time the agreement was broken, the land would return to the families of Hamilton Carr Bland and A.T. Heath, Sr.

Hamilton Carr Bland played another very important role in the garden’s renaissance, though he didn’t quite know it at the time. In fact, we covered his “lovely mistake” in our May 1998 issue of Southern Living.

An avid fisherman, Swan Lake once served as Mr. Bland’s private retreat. He purchased swampland adjacent to West Liberty Street with the hope of turning it into a fishing pond. He built up the banks with clippings and constructed little islands. Mr. Bland had also tried to landscape 30 acres of his home with Japanese iris bulbs—a disastrous failure. When they didn’t bloom, in 1927, the frustrated businessman had his gardener dig up the bulbs and throw them into the swamp.

Come spring, the Japanese irises burst forth from their watery grave, creating an “accidental garden” of purple and yellow hues. Visitors to Swan Lake Iris Gardens can now see over 120 varieties of iris painting the garden with colorful strokes in late spring. The irises are widely celebrated each year at Sumter’s Iris Festival over Memorial Day weekend, which holds the title of South Carolina’s longest-running continuous festival (81 years in 2023).

In addition to a spray of irises, Swan Lake Iris Gardens comes alive with camellias, hydrangeas, lilies, azaleas, daylilies, and Japanese magnolias—a small sampling of the garden’s 172 plant species. For each season, there is beauty to behold, Sandy says. In the winter, the city plants pansies to liven up the half-mile walk around the lake. In addition, the Friends of Swan Lake Board has implemented interactive learning stations throughout the park to help visitors understand the unique flora and fauna.

“Cyprus knees stick up all around the edge of the water,” Sandy says. “When the spring starts, there is light green surrounding the trees. In the fall, those little green leaves turn a beautiful golden color.”

Swan Lake Iris Gardens is a horticultural paradise, and not just for the irises. On your walk around the lake, you’ll find side paths to visit the Butterfly Garden—planted to draw in one of the South’s most valuable pollinators—and the quirky Chocolate Garden.

Established in 2009, the Chocolate Garden is a labor of love from Sumter’s Master Gardeners, who care for the space voluntarily. The gardeners have planted chocolate cherry tomatoes, chocolate mini bell peppers, and chocolate corn, all vegetables with chocolate-colored qualities. Some of the flowers and herbs smell “chocolatey,” as well, like Chocolate Daisy, Chocolate Mint, and Chocolate Cosmos. (The list of chocolate-themed plants continues.) This creative addition to Swan Lake Iris Gardens is even brightened up with “white chocolate, strawberry, and banana-colored selections,” the garden’s website states, to present a jovial banana split illusion.

To welcome guests into the park, the Friends of Swan Lake Board rallied together and raised two million dollars for a splashy new entrance. One million went toward a stunning sculpture from renowned artist and Sumter native Grainger McKoy, who unveiled “Seven Swans” in 2020. The sculpture stands at a dramatic twenty-four feet over a fountain and depicts seven swans coming out of the water, representing the Biblical Creation story.

Enter by the sculpture and wander through Swan Lake Iris Gardens for a botanical experience unlike any other in the South. In addition to the swans, bird lovers can spot herons, egrets, wood ducks, Canada geese, muscovies, and over two dozen other species. “Swan Lake is such a beautiful place to see,” Sandy says. “You can go out to the garden and relax on a bench or walk around. It's so calming. People come from all over to sit, think, and pray.”

Admission is always free—even during the highly anticipated Fantasy of Lights when Swan Lake Iris Gardens gets a million-light holiday makeover.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens is located at 822 West Liberty Street in Sumter, South Carolina and is open from 7:30 a.m. to dusk every day (exceptions during inclement weather and the Iris Festival). The Visitors Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sumter County Detention Center director honored as 2023 SC Jail Director of the Year

Maj. Patricia Ray has been working at the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center for 3.5 years. This year, she was honored by the SC Jail Administrators Association.SUMTER, S.C. — The 2023 South Carolina Jail Director of the Year is from right here in the Midlands. Patricia Ray with the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center was recognized by the South Carolina Jail Administra...

Maj. Patricia Ray has been working at the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center for 3.5 years. This year, she was honored by the SC Jail Administrators Association.

SUMTER, S.C. — The 2023 South Carolina Jail Director of the Year is from right here in the Midlands. Patricia Ray with the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center was recognized by the South Carolina Jail Administrators Association for her work.

Maj. Ray has been working at the Sumter County Detention Center for a little over three years.

“Now I just feel like it's just full circle. I'm back in corrections again,” Ray smiles. “But I like it. I really do.”

Ray started out working in a detention center more than 30 years ago. She then became a class one officer before trying out jail administration. This year, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis nominated her for the award, which Ray says she won after being voted on by other jail administrators across the state.

“When you look around the territory, look around the state, there are a lot of different detention centers, but I know in my own backyard, we have one of the best to do it and Major Ray is that person,” Midlands Fatherhood Coalition (MFC) Director of Programs Keith Ivey shares.

Ivey says that Ray invites him along with Terrance Osborne to the jail every week to speak with the male inmates about the importance of fatherhood.

“A lot of [the inmates] come to me and they say they really appreciate, you know, the time, energy and effort that she puts in to allow us to really come in because they feel like we're really really touching them,” Osborne explains.

“To want to have a good valuable service to come in and provide services for the guys, it touches your spirit,” Ivey adds about Ray. “And that's what we need. We need people who really care about what they're doing.”

Like Ray, Ivey says, who is working to provide opportunities to inmates, including GED training, connections with local pastors and substance abuse and mental health treatment.

“Because a lot of them when they come, they don't know who they are, what’s the purpose of being here. It’s just so wide open in the streets. This is a slow down time. So once we get them slowed down and get them focused, I just want to put everything in place that they need to say, ‘Hey, you know, I need to be a better mom.’ And here you go. ‘I need my GED.’ Here you go. ‘I'm having problems with drinking and drugs.’ There you go. I want to be able to wrap that person,” Ray explains about jail time. “because you want to make a better person to go out. You don't want them to be the same as when they came in. Because they're just going to go back out and do the same thing again and come back. And they may do that. But I want them to have time to slow down and think about why. Or should I do this again? Or is it worth it?”

When it comes to Ray’s favorite part of the job, she says it’s her co-workers.

“My most favorite thing that I've done since I've been here is holding together a team of people and making them see that they can be the best that they can be and be the best at what they do, love what they do,” Ray explains. “I feel like I've built a very good team since I've been here.”

A look at how the Sumter School District scored in annual testing

Alice Drive Elementary School received an "excellent" score of 71 in the South Carolina Readiness Assessment report cards. On Wednesday, staff celebrated.SUMTER, S.C. — South Carolina Ready Assessment report cards have been released showing how schools are performing all over the state. One elementary school in Sumter is celebrating an “excellent” score.“This is a great thing for ...

Alice Drive Elementary School received an "excellent" score of 71 in the South Carolina Readiness Assessment report cards. On Wednesday, staff celebrated.

SUMTER, S.C. — South Carolina Ready Assessment report cards have been released showing how schools are performing all over the state. One elementary school in Sumter is celebrating an “excellent” score.

“This is a great thing for Sumter School District,” Alice Drive Elementary School parent and teacher Holly Williamson shares. “And we need some positivity around Sumter, so this is really good. So I'm so happy for Alice Drive.”

The school is celebrating its newest score from the state department of education, designated as “excellent.”

“When we all come together, that's when we get excellence. So that's why I'm so proud. I feel like this is a whole community that could feel really, really proud of itself for what we've accomplished,” Principal Eric Masaitis says. “I feel like it really makes a difference in the community not only to be proud of the school, but to know that that trust is there. And when the community sees that a school is doing well, they're more likely to trust the school and to trust the teachers. And that takes a little bit of load off teachers who are already working really hard.”

Masaitis says this score, a 71, is up from last year’s score of 59. It measures how students are performing in grades three through eight, tracking their progress in reading, math and science, which Director of Testing and Accountability for Sumter School District Lamont Moore says is important.

“We don't just want to assess our students and never respond to it. Looking at data requires a response and so in order to do that, we have to make sure that we are looking at it on a regular basis, that our teachers know how to analyze it, our leaders know how to analyze it, we're having joint conversations about it, and we're putting in some some interventions and plans in place to respond to it,” Moore says.

Looking at trends across the district for the South Carolina Ready Assessment, the percentage of scores that did not meet expectations lowered across all grade levels in English. In math, the percentage lowered for all grades except 7th and 8th where it increased slightly.

A different set of statistics came out that measures test scores in algebra, biology, English and US history among high schoolers for spring 2023. Each category is up from the previous year, but the only category that is above pre-pandemic scores in 2019 is English. The other three subjects are testing just below.

“We're excited because we're closing the gap and not only that we're going to the next level and pushing our students higher than what they were before this COVID-19 thing happened with us,” Moore says.

When it comes to future plans, Moore says “we're just looking to start having more detailed data dialogue within our schools and getting more personalized with our approach so that every student knows where they need to go to be successful.”

“I heard a quote recently. It says, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ And I love that because we can strategize all we want but if we don't have a culture where we expect excellence all the time from our teachers and from our students, then none of the strategies you put in place are going to work,” Masaitis says. “That's our strategy moving forward is to keep our culture and just keep improving one student at a time.”

According to Masaitis, Alice drive is the first elementary school in Sumter School District to receive an excellent score since 2012.

When asked what the school district credits for the increase in test scores from last year, the district says schools had “an intentional instructional focus that included data disaggregation, student engagement, and additional ELEOT observations, which are student centered observations.”

“We are not perfect. We still have ways to go. But we're showing progress and have a great team,” Moore says.


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