Since 1979, Vernon Payne has been a member of the Clarke County School District Board of Education.
“He has been on the school board longer than I’ve been alive,” said president of the CCSD board of education, Jared Bybee, jokingly.
As reported in The Red & Black, health issues are the reason Payne has not been able to attend a board meeting since March of 2018, fellow board member and District 6 Representative Charles Worthy said. On Jan. 10, the board announced that Payne had officially turned in his letter of resignation.
“The students that we allow to fall through the cracks or permit to be placed in an atmosphere that is not conducive to learning and reaching their full potential could be the very students that could save innumerable lives, change the world through innovation, develop numerous medical cures and countless other life-changing advancements,” Payne wrote in his resignation letter.
“However, if we fail our youth, then we also have in turn failed ourselves as we have unknowingly stifled the many God-given talents that have been bestowed upon our youth.”
The board will have the challenge of finding a new board member that has Payne’s extensive knowledge and experience. The deadline for qualified District 2 residents to apply is on Feb. 14, and all applicants will need to prepare a brief presentation stating their goals and reasons for applying, to be presented at the Feb. 21 board meeting.
Worthy, who has been on the board with Payne since 2006 when he was elected president, said Payne’s presence has been missed because of his “wealth of knowledge about school boards.”
His youngest son, Quaison Payne, said his father was thrilled to know that his efforts on the CCSD property committee contributed to the approval of renovations of Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary, which was the last school in need of renovations.
All of Payne’s sons graduated from Cedar Shoals High School, but Quaison Payne said his father had a passion for education long before becoming a father.
“His mother and father always stressed education and how important it was,” Quaison Payne said, “He contributes education as one of the backbones to his success."
Quaison Payne said that his father prioritized school board issues frequently but understood that Payne’s major commitment was part of a greater cause.
Payne also served on the Georgia School Boards Association and National School Boards Association, which both advocate for the improvement of public education through public policy.
Payne’s presence at board meetings provided a constant reminder that the board’s duty was first and foremost to the students, said Bybee, who served on the board with Payne for two years.
Outside of the world of education, Payne was a Sunday school teacher and Bible study teacher at Hill Chapel Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon for over 50 years.
Although Payne has not attended a board meeting in a long time, his charisma has a lasting influence on the board members he worked with.
“His legacy on the school board will never go away,” Superintendent Demond Means said. “His constant will to improve education for the students of Clarke County will remain for many generations to come.”
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