Retiring Richmond Hill Elementary Principal James Bing was presented with an award by the Bryan County NAACP on Monday "in recognition of outstanding service to the Bryan County community as a role model and leader".
Bryan NAACP Chairman Dave Williams said the presentation is bittersweet as the county is losing its only black administrator.
Williams added that, throughout Bing’s 25-year tenure, he has been the only black administrator during that entire time. He also said there are simply not enough black teachers in the system. Williams and members of the group expressed this is a problem that needs to be addressed by the Board of Education.
"One of our biggest disappointments in Bryan County is the lack of black administrators in our schools. Fortunately, for the last 25 years, we have had one. The down side of that, unfortunately, is that he’s going to be leaving us, and we’ll be without one again."
Williams said he used to work for the BoE and always looked up to Bing. He expressed this to Bing during the award presentation.
"You were a role model to me, and I know how very important it has been for the children to have you as a role model in our system," said Williams. "I can’t tell you how grateful I personally am for all that you’ve done. It’s more than an honor to have known you and been associated with you."
Williams went on to thank Bing for "his years of service and dedication" and said that Bing "has been successful in instituting a solid educational foundation to the children of this community which played a strong role in why the education system here is so highly touted."
NAACP member Gwen McIver participated in the presentation. Her children graduated from RHES under Bing’s tutelage. She bragged about Bing’s administrative skills and of his open door policy which has helped nurture children of all races."His influence has made a huge influence on my children's lives, and he has inspired them to be better," said McIver.
"Working here has been a joy and I’ve met so many wonderful people," said Bing.
Bing thanked God for giving him the guidance necessary to fulfill his duties. He reflected on the many changes in the school system since he started working in the system in Pembroke in 1982, including the fact that Richmond Hill had just a K-12 school at that time. He said he was very proud and fortunate to have spent the last 25 years in the Bryan County education system.
McIver and Williams both spoke about the importance of having a black leader in the school system for black youth to relate to and give them someone to aspire to be like.
In Atlanta, NAACP Southeast National Regional Director Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson said there are some mounting concerns about the Bryan County school system based on a number of complaints received by his office.
"We hear a constant refrain from citizens on what are we going to do about education in Bryan County," Johnson said. "The Superintendent is unresponsive to the concerns of African Americans parents."
Johnson said the NAACP is discussing the possibility of opening an investigation into the Bryan County school system for its hiring practices because of too few minority teachers for the percentage of the population.
"We would appreciate their help and welcome their assistance in finding more minority applicants," responded Brewer.
She said the system currently has one black administrator working in the central office, Alan Clark, the assistant director of administrative services. Brewer also said the schools are strongly involved in minority recruitment outreach. Brewer said Olivia Harvey, who is in charge of recruitment for the system, has participated in career fairs at minority colleges the past three years. Brewer said she and her staff adhere to a strict non-discrimination code of conduct, and screen each applicant using the same criteria, regardless of their race. She noted several new minority staff members, including blacks, have just been hired for the next school year.
As for Bing’s departure, Brewer said, "No one will miss him more than I. Mr. Bing was an incredible administrator and a strong supporter of the Bryan County school system."