Two longtime Bryan County Board of Education members said their goodbyes to office last week. Eddie Warren, who was first elected to the school board in 2001 and has been chairman since 2006, and Paine Bacon, the two-term representative from District 1, finished their final board meeting Dec. 20 after both decided earlier this year not to seek re-election.
“I believe in term limits,” Bacon said. “I believe eight years is enough, and it’s time for someone with new ideas to come on board.”
Warren said it’s time to focus on his family and business interests.
“Eighteen years is a long time,” he said. “It’s time I started working on things for my family and myself, and put a little more emphasis on my businesses.”
The Bryan County school system has grown a great deal over their time in office, Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said, before both were given plaques commemorating their service.
In particular, Warren has seen a great deal of change since he entered office. “When he was first elected the school system had 5,285 students, and right now enrollment is about to hit 10,000,” Brooksher said, then noted the first graduating class of Warren’s time on the board is now around 36 years old, certain to make him “feel like a young man.”
Warren and Bacon have combined for 25 years of service on the board, attended nearly 500 school board meetings and the graduation of 18 senior classes, Brooksher noted. What’s more, during their time in office the two have seen the school system undertake building projects worth about $100 million.
But it’s about more than that, Brooksher said.
“Of all of our elected offices, I believe serving on the board of education is the most important,” he said. “Think about their impact on the lives of families. Board members are there to provide leadership and support to the school system from the time a child enters Pre-K at 4 until that child graduates. Being a school board member is different. As elected officials, their role involves doing what is best for children, not constituents. Their primary focus is on kids.”
Brooksher said the school board also has an impact beyond the classroom.
“The success of the community and local business directly correlates to the local school system,” he said. “Great schools help build great communities.”
The two men were saluted by fellow board members, as well as by Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter.Carpenter credited the school system for driving economic and community growth. Carpenter said not only does Bryan County Schools attract families looking for a quality education for their children, but the system also helps draw companies seeking a trained workforce.
“That’s an obvious benefit and it’s a product of the actions taken by the school board,” Carpenter said.
Bacon said he’s proudest of the students.
“You can talk about buildings, you can talk about core (curriculum), but for me it’s just to see the accomplishments of the kids,” he said. “I had no personal agenda and I went in there as a public servant and that’s how I served.”
Warren said two things stand out to him after his 18 years.
“One is that at a board level we’ve been able to acquire property for expansion, something we’ve never been able to do in the past,” he said. “And on a personal level to me as a board member, probably the thing I’m proudest of is always having the teachers’ back. They’re the ones out there turning the wheels every day in the classroom. They’re the ones who make it happen and as a board we tried to make sure they had what they needed.”
Bacon said his advice to future board members is simple.
“Follow your conscience and you’ll sleep well every night,” he said.