Couple have Georgia on their mind


June 22, 1999|By John J. Snyder | John J. Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHANGE IS not new to him. Seven years ago, Bill Payne, a Howard County high school teacher and administrator, changed directions to become principal at Stevens Forest Elementary School.

"Bill is a unique individual in my judgment," said Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. "His willingness and interest in making the move made a difference."

In 1997, Stevens Forrest was one of two Howard County schools to receive a $30,000 check from the Maryland Department of Education in recognition of its "substantial and sustained academic progress" in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP).

Now Payne has Georgia on his mind.

After 25 years with the Howard County school system, the affable administrator is beginning a new chapter in his life. His wife, Marion -- the Mount View Middle School principal -- has been offered a chance to oversee the opening of four middle schools in a small, progressive school system in Milledgeville, Ga.

She feels she has stumbled into a dream job.

Marion Payne, the National Middle Schools Association president, attended a conference in Atlanta last year. Colleague John Lounsbury invited her to visit the schools in Baldwin County, 90 miles to the southeast.

Milledgeville, in Baldwin County, was once Georgia's capital and is home to several large state operations, including the campus of Georgia College and State University, where Lounsbury is dean emeritus of the School of Education.

Payne liked the idea of moving to the town after hearing about an open position. The educational profile of Milledgeville residents resembles that of Columbia, and Milledgeville is smaller and more homey, with a population of less than 18,000, compared with Columbia's 87,000.

Originally, the Paynes planned to retire from the Howard County school system while continuing to teach, hoping to work in a warmer, drier climate in the Southwest -- Arizona, or maybe Las Vegas.

They imagined themselves doing something familiar but in a new place.

Their dream changed when the Baldwin County school system offered them a package deal. Marion Payne is to supervise the growth of the middle schools, while Bill Payne will become the principal of Milledgeville's Southside Elementary School.

"I'm happy for Bill and Marion," Hickey said, "but I'm sorry to lose them both."

Bill Payne says he has benefited from his tenure at Stevens Forest as much as the students have. "When I think about the kids' growth, emotionally and socially, I think I've become a better educator," he said.

Walking through the halls at Stevens Forest, Payne is greeted by appreciative teachers, students and parent volunteers who stop to tell him how much they will miss him.

"He is a great principal," said fifth-grader Kirah Yen. "He was always there for us. I will never forget him."

One of Kirah's classmates, Christina Jackson, agrees, saying, "I sort of had a head start with him. He was my dad's teacher at Oakland Mills."

Payne's face lights up as he recalls coaching Christina's father, Edgar "Buckey" Bryant, a football player at the high school in the mid-1970s.

"Yeah, he was a great ball player," Payne tells the proud daughter.

For three years, Tom Forno, Columbia Council representative from Harper's Choice, has come to Stevens Forest to read with children. His daughter Ann teaches first grade there.

"He's fair, he's level-headed and he thinks before he speaks," Forno says of Payne. "I feel welcome here as a parent volunteer and as the parent of a teacher."

"He's going to be sorely missed," says Jan Hamburg, third-grade instructional assistant. "He always puts the kids first. He always comes through for the kids."

The Paynes won't have much of a summer break. They leave at the end of this month and take up their new positions almost immediately.

For some, moving after so many years in Maryland would be a nightmare -- selling one house, buying another; boxing up in Maryland, getting settled in Georgia.

But Bill Payne shrugs it off, although he admits to some anxiety.

"It's like going off to college for the first time," he says, "but we're risk-takers. It's part of the adventure, and we have our goals to focus on."

This move will be very different from a move the Paynes made in 1977, renting out their Long Reach home to teach in Tehran, Iran, for two years.

Now their children are grown. Brian, 29, a Stevens Forest alumnus, is a physician at King Drew Hospital in Los Angeles.

Russell, 23, is a goalkeeper with the D.C. United and Maryland Mania professional soccer teams.

After 34 years of teaching, many would choose to stop and smell the roses, maybe do a little fishing.

"I want to keep my hand in it," Bill Payne says, adding with a smile, "I want to make sure we have good leadership when I'm 75, 80 years old."

Alternative dogs

Veterinarian Scott B. Sanderson, owner of the East Columbia Animal Hospital on Dobbin Road, has been certified to practice animal acupuncture.

Sanderson completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society course for large and small animals.

The yearlong program includes an internship and presentations of case studies.

Sanderson is also a charter member of the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture.

Masters of disaster

Maryland Search and Rescue, the American Red Cross and the Boy Scouts are developing a program for high school students interested in disaster relief.

Starting this summer, the teen-agers will be trained in damage assessment, mass care, shelter operations and emergency first aid.

An open house for the program will be from 7: 30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Oakland Manor office of the Red Cross, 5434 Vantage Point Road.

Information: Peter McCabe, 301-596-9994.

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