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BoE showcases recent projects
Bradwell Institute band director Jeremy Fermin gives BoE Vice Chairwoman Verdell Jones a primer in playing the xylophone on Friday during the school boards bus tour as other guests watch. - photo by Photo by Danielle Hipps

Four Liberty County School System locations opened their doors to visitors Friday morning to showcase how recently built, renovated and constructed facilities are used.
The Liberty County Board of Education invited area dignitaries and business members to see the Liberty College & Career Academy, Bradwell Institute, Olvey Field and the Performing Arts Center during a morning-long bus tour.
“It’s always exciting for us to show our citizens what their tax dollars doing for our children…,” BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker said. “We’re hoping that as you look at our facilities today, you will go back and talk to other individuals and let them know exactly what the Liberty County public school system has to offer not only our students, but our community.”
With fewer than 20 guests, the trip had a smaller turnout than expected, as organizers anticipated using four buses and only one was needed.
Attendees included real-estate agents, government representatives and Fort Stewart leaders.
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory and Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Felicioni were among the visitors.
Gregory, whose daughter attends Midway Middle School, said it’s important to installation leaders to be familiar with local schools because they serve the installation.
“Parents come to us a lot of times if they have issues or if they have questions about the downtown area …,” Gregory said.  “Education is extremely important to us in the military and, usually, I would say, for most families. The way they decide where to live when they come to an installation is what the local school system offers.”
Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, who retired from the school system after 37 years in education, was among the visitors.
“Now is my opportunity to just go in, look, ask some questions and see what’s going on,” Washington said. “It’s important because government and education should work hand-in-hand.”
Liberty County Commission Chairman-elect Donald Lovette, who formerly served on the BoE, agreed with the importance of collaboration and said he wished more people had attended.
“They’re working hard to engage the community, and the community needs to respond …,” Lovette said.
“I like this open-door concept for people to be able to see where their tax dollars are spent. We have marvelous new facilities here in Liberty County that belong to the people.”
Georgia Holtzman, real-estate broker and owner of Coldwell Banker Holtzman, Realtors, also attended.
“Obviously education is the core of our community, and I’m here primarily just to see what changes have been made,” Holtzman said, adding that the last time such a showcase was offered was about 10 years ago.
“As far as our community, I’m still very interested in trying to dispel the myth that our school system is inferior to the Bryan County School System,” Holtzman said. “I personally feel that it’s superior to their system, but we’re not telling the story.”
At Bradwell Institute, Principal Scott Carrier guided the group to the fine-arts wing that opened about a year ago.
In the music room, new band instructor Jeremy Fermin gave BoE Vice Chairwoman Verdell Jones a lesson on a xylophone and a bass drum.
Fermin also told visitors about his initiatives to engage middle-school students to increase interest in band at the high-school level.  
At the career academy, the guests sampled danishes created by culinary arts program students, and school CEO Tom Alexander led a tour through the campus.
Keller Williams Realty agent Kathy Villafane brought her daughter, Midway Middle School seventh-grader Khloe Villafane, so both could see what the school system has to offer.
At the career academy, Kathy Villafane pointed out that Khloe was wide-eyed with excitement.
“This is a really good school that I would like to attend some day,” Khloe Villafane said, adding that nursing would be her pathway of choice.    
“As a professional, I have to know what’s going on with the school system because that’s one of the most important things to new people that are moving to the community, and they look at us as the experts,” Kathy Villafane said. “And having a child that’s a student, I’m very interested in the Liberty County Career Academy … I think it’s going to be an excellent sell for people.”

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