An eye on education

by | December 28, 2012 4:17 pm

by KATELYN MOORE

   Although Burley Page has lived in several different places in Emanuel County, all of them have been on Page Garrett Road and not far from each other.

   “We’ve moved three times, and haven’t moved a mile any time,” he says. “I’ve been on the Western edge of Emanuel County the whole time.”

   Born in Swainsboro in March of 1957, Page attended school in Swainsboro, graduating from Swainsboro High School in 1975 and attending Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for two years, earning his associate’s degree in ag technology. He then went on to graduate from the University of Georgia in 1979. He returned to Swainsboro and began working for Georgia Ag Chem and married his wife, Connie (née Perry). 

   “I grew up on a farm,” Page says. “My father farmed and ran a fertilizer business. I’ve always been in that, so I came back and started in a warehouse, overseeing the receiving and shipping of material, then went on to purchasing and programs, and finally went into sales. I worked ten counties from there and managed a location for the last several years.”

   The company Page worked for was bought three times while he was there, finally ending up as Crop Production Services. He managed the location on Empire Expressway.

   “With a corporation comes a lot of hierarchy and bureaucratic stuff, just like with the school board,” he explains. “Because I started so young, I was able to retire from there and went to work with another company, Meherrin Ag, earlier this year.”

   He works out of Belleville and Collins, working the Vidalia online area, selling fertilizer, seed and chemicals to area farmers. He also farms, grows pine trees, and used to have livestock.

   “I’ve been associated with the school system in Swainsboro and Emanuel County for a long time, but never thought anything about the School Board when I was going to school.”

   Page, who served as the District 3 representative on the Emanuel County School Board for the past 24 years, says he was convinced to run by Hugh and Donna Foskey.

   “They asked if I’d run for the school board, but I didn’t really have any intentions of doing so,” he explains. “Donna was finishing her time and didn’t want to run again. She and Hugh finally talked me into it. I ran against Dal Durden in 1988.”

   Page’s daughter, Kimberly, started school around the time he started on the Board, and his second daughter, Rachel, followed soon after. His son, Brandon, is currently a senior at Swainsboro High School. Kimberly graduated from UGA with a speech pathology degree and earned her master’s at Valdosta State University, working as an adult and child speech therapist. She and her husband, Brian, have one son, River Thomas Cooper. Brian teaches third grade. Rachel, who recently was engaged to Chad Burkhalter, teaches fourth grade English Language Arts at Swainsboro Elementary School and graduated from Georgia Southern University.

   “We’ve been very involved in education in the family,” Page says.

   His wife, Connie, retired from the Cooperative Extension Service, doing 4-H work in Emanuel County and in Candler County. She also taught home economics in Adrian for one year.

   “Connie was in the schools, and when she walked in, she was like a teacher. She could give some feedback,” Page says. “When a board member or superintendent walks in, it trickles through the building and everyone is on their best behavior.”

   “A lot of folks didn’t believe it, but when we had executive session, I didn’t talk to Connie about anything until it was printed or public knowledge. Once she heard it or read it and it was public knowledge, I’d tell her,” Page says. “We had our disagreements about that from time to time, but that’s how it worked out. That’s how I operated. She was a good sounding board because she was in all the schools.

   “Some board members’ wives were teachers, so they could provide feedback on one school, but she was in all schools but Swainsboro Primary. She could help me see things from a teacher’s perspective. Yeah, if she didn’t like something, she’d let us know, but that was a good thing.”

   During his time on the Board, Page had a policy of listening to people to find out a lot of information. “If someone comes up to you and gripes and complains, most of the time it is a conflict of personalities. Ninety percent of the time, they just want to get it off their chest. About eight percent of the time, there’s merit in making something different, and two percent of the time it is someone really wanting something changed. I tried to pass it on to the Superintendent, whether it was Dr. Betty Brown, Butch Frye or Erma Jenkins. If four or five people came to me about the same thing, then it was a problem with red flags that needed to be looked at.”

   Page says he is very proud of the things that the Board was able to accomplish over time.

   “The most rewarding aspect has been the achievements that have been made. Yeah, most of the time, when you think of an elected official, you hear complaints. When something does happen and it works, folks appreciate it,” he explains. One person on the board can’t change anything. Our board has seven members on it, so it takes four votes to pass or four votes to turn something down. That’s good, because you have to build a consensus. There’s no one person running the show, and the board is supposed to oversee the overall welfare of the system, not run it day to day. The most satisfactory thing is when you give people the resources to do what they need to do and they achieve their goals. That’s the best achievement. If you put a program in place or build a new gym or get the football field in place, folks appreciate that. In the end, when they do appreciate things, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

   Page says that, now that his tenure as a Board member has ended, he and his family will stay involved in the schools, because they’ve been so used to it. “If I can help anyone, I’ll help, but I’ve taken on a new job, so I have to focus on that. I still farm and grow some crops such as peanuts, cotton, soybeans, sunflowers… I don’t know what I’ll grow this year, but I like working with the vegetable farmers. Its exciting to me, working with the different crops.”

   “I have to put Brandon through college, so I can’t quit now,” he explains with a laugh.

   Page attends and is a lifelong member of Minton’s Chapel Advent Christian Church in Kite. He serves as a Deacon and treasurer of the church. Connie is a member of First United Methodist Church of Swainsboro, and the couple support both churches.

   “The church is important in our life, and I’ve supported the community,” Page says. “I’ve tried to stay abreast and talked to the County Commissioners and City Council and been supportive where I can. You have to have support from the public.”

   “Seeing Emanuel County grow and prosper has been very important,” he says.

  • An eye on education
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