For the first time since 1979, the Clarke County School District Board of Education is without longtime member Vernon Payne.
“He has been on the school board longer than I’ve been alive,” said president of the CCSD board of education, Jared Bybee, jokingly.
Due to health issues, Payne has not attended a board meeting since March 2018, fellow board member and District 6 Representative Charles Worthy said. The board announced Jan. 10 that Payne had officially submitted 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 is tasked with not only finding a new board member but also with replacing Payne’s extensive knowledge and experience. The deadline for qualified District 2 residents to apply is 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, and all applicants are expected to prepare a short presentation outlining their goals and reasons for applying, to be presented at the Feb. 21 board meeting.
The board, not the public, will decide who will fill Payne’s position.
Worthy has worked with Payne on the board since 2006 when he was elected president of the board. Worthy said Payne’s presence has been missed due to his “wealth of knowledge about school boards.”
"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.”
— Vernon Payne, former CCSD board of education member
His youngest son, Quaison Payne, said his father was very happy to know that his efforts on the CCSD property committee helped ensure the renovations of Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary, which was the last school that was in need of renovations.
All three of Payne’s sons graduated from Cedar Shoals High School, but Quaison Payne said his father’s passion for education was instilled in him long before he was 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."
During Payne’s time on the board, he would prepare for Thursday meetings early in the week, bouncing ideas off his sons, making calls and researching issues at hand. Quaison Payne said that his father often had to prioritize school board issues but understood Payne’s immense commitment was part of a greater cause.
Superintendent Demond Means spoke highly of Payne’s influence on Clarke County. He said Payne “was always a supporter of the students” and his impressive contributions to Clarke County school district should serve as an example.
Payne served on the Georgia School Boards Association and National School Boards Association, which both advocate for the improvement of public education through public policy.
Bybee, who has served on the board for two years, said Payne “wasn’t a man of many words.” However, Bybee remembers the emphasis his colleague placed on providing children with the best education and opportunities possible.
Payne’s presence at board meetings provided a constant reminder that the board’s duty was first and foremost to the students, Bybee said.
Payne was involved in the community as a Sunday school teacher and Bible study teacher at Hill Chapel Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon for over 50 years.
Payne’s time at the church gave him the opportunity to see his huge commitment pay off. Quaison Payne said children are his father’s pride and joy, and he always made it a point to interact with and get to know the children at the church.
"His constant will to improve education for the students of Clarke County will remain for many generations to come."
— Demond Means, CCSD superintendent
If he could describe his father in one sentence, “he’s a man who always strives to do what’s right, regardless of whether it benefits him or costs him.”
Although Payne has not attended a board meeting in a while, his charisma still has a lasting influence on the board members he worked with.
“His legacy on the school board will never go away,” Means said. “His constant will to improve education for the students of Clarke County will remain for many generations to come.”