School board incumbent touts experience, challenger says new blood needed

Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 8:31 PM
Last updated Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 1:34 AM
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There’s little disagreement about the issues in the Richmond County Board of Education District 1 race.

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Board of Education District 1

Both candidates say student achievement, management of a crippled budget and improving graduation rates are top priorities in local education.

The way each approaches the challenges, though, is what sets them apart and gives voters a choice between two different candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot. Incumbent Marion Barnes said his 12 years on the board and knowledge of the issues gives him an upper hand in the race. His challenger, Lucien Williams, the owner of Williams Management accounting and income tax business, said his fresh set of eyes and financial background can bring a welcomed change to the board.

“I’ve watched these schools go down for a decade,” Williams said. “It’s got to improve at some point ... I think new leadership, new perspective can help.”

Barnes, 78, was elected to the Board in 2000 after more than 30 years in education. He taught at various schools in Augusta before serving as the principal of T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School for 18 years.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Barnes, who chose a career in education after growing up in poverty and seeing adults around him who couldn’t read or write.

In his time on the board, Barnes has worked with three superintendents and dealt with $113 million in state funding cuts over the last 10 years.

Barnes said he has played a role in hiring effective teachers and finding federal funds to support faculty and students. Going forward, Barnes said he’d like one more term to oversee construction projects that are a result of the special purpose local option sales tax passed during his tenure.

He also wants to help graduation rates by continuing to ensure teachers get training to make their instruction effective.

“I don’t have a problem with change,” Barnes said of his challenger. “But in losing (state funding) this year, I’m in a better position to deal with that than a newcomer. We have to do more with less, and I don’t have to learn how to do that.”

Like Barnes, Williams, 57, was born and raised in Augusta. He went to the University of Wyoming to study history but returned to Augusta after graduation and opened his tax business.

After he sent one of his sons to Academy of Richmond County and the other to the private Augusta Preparatory Day School, Williams realized “by far, the one that went to Prep got a better education.”

Williams saw an injustice with that and has since followed public education.

He is now walking neighborhoods and setting up signs to sell his ideas to the public.

He is learning how to speak in front of crowds and to convince people his first stint as an elected official would help the community.

Williams said the change he has planned won’t happen overnight. Over the course of his term, he’d like to advocate for more magnet and vocational programs.

He said the school system is responsible for producing graduates that will contribute to the local economy and industry. That can be done by making sure test scores and student achievement improve with effective teachers and adequate resources.

Williams would also address chronic absenteeism and the challenges in single-parent homes with community outreach.

Like Barnes, Williams said he wants to work with the financial department to reduce furlough days and make sure transportation runs smoothly.

Barnes said he would be willing to balance the budget by raising taxes as a last resort, but Williams said he’d like to look at cutting waste and selling surplus district properties instead.

If he wins, Barnes said this would be his final term on the board, and he wants to leave the system stable and secure. Williams said he is hoping to serve two terms to accomplish his goals.

If not elected this time, Williams said he will run again with bigger and better plans for the district.

“My interest will not go away because these things are important,” Williams said.


AGE: 78

FAMILY: Wife, Nancy; son, Barry; daughter, Nanette

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: 12 years on the Board of Education

EDUCATION: Paine College, bachelor’s degree in science and mathematics; South Carolina State University, master’s degree in education counseling; Georgia Southern University, master’s degree in administration and supervision; Tuskegee University, education specialist

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION? “I want to run again because I care about the children in Richmond County.”


AGE: 57

FAMILY: Wife, Cassandra; sons, Riley, 30, Zadoc, 28


EDUCATION: University of Wyoming, bachelor’s degree in history

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? To bring new leadership to the school board and help improve test scores, transportation issues and help deal with the budget concerns.

Comments (4) Add comment
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showboat 10/14/12 - 09:55 pm


theevangelist2 10/15/12 - 08:38 am
RCBOE District 1 Race

I have to agree with Mr. Williams this district 1 needs a fresh set of eyes, a new leadership and a new perspective and this district cannot keep being run the same way with no change or improvement.

Mr. Barnes is a good man and person but he needs to go home enjoy life and let new fresh younger minds handle it for now.

Bulldog 10/15/12 - 08:38 am
No question

There is no question who needs to be elected to this seat. Just spend 5 minutes speaking with each of the candidates and it is obvious! Lucien Williams has fresh new ideas to help turn around the abject failure that is our public school system. Marion Barnes has spent his life being part of this abysimal failure. We sure don't need any more of what he is delivering! Like granddad used to say; "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging." Let's put some new ideas to work. It's obvious to everyone that that the direction taken in the last 30 years is way off track. Lucien Barnes has my vote and that of every caring parent in District one.

nfossboss 10/15/12 - 08:59 am
Marion Barnes re-election

Marion Barnes is a valuable asset to the RCBE. His love and concern for our students, along with his respect for teachers, is obvious. His vast educational experience, both on and off the board, gives him a unique advantage when tackling the tremendous problems public school faces today. He has my vote, my support, and my thanks for a job well done.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/15/12 - 12:46 pm

If you want the schools to keep on doing what they've been doing, vote for Barnes. If you want something new, vote for Williams.

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