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LCHS principal: 'Time felt right' to retire
Paula Scott leaving Liberty High after 23 years
Paula Scott
Paula Scott sits in her office at Liberty County High School. - photo by Photo by Tiffany King

Paula Scott thinks it’s time to let someone else be the principal of Liberty County High School.

“I think that it’s time to let someone new, who maybe has fresh ideas, who doesn’t get as physically tired, to come in and have their shot at it,” she said in an interview Monday. “Education has changed a lot over the years.”

Scott, 50, has been at LCHS for 23 years. She and her family grew up in Liberty County.

In 1982, she graduated from Bradwell Institute and attended the University of Georgia. She earned a business degree and became a certified purchasing agent. However, Scott couldn’t shake the desire to teach.

“I had done some subbing during college, like on spring break and vacation,” Scott said. “I always had this feeling of, ‘If this was my classroom, this is what I would do differently,’ and I couldn’t let go of that. I went back and got certified to teach.”

Scott started her teaching career at Button Gwinnett Elementary School, then left to teach at St. Marys Elementary School for three years.

She returned to Liberty County as an assistant principal when LCHS was Liberty County Middle High School. Scott served in that position for four years under Dr. Gene Nesbitt, who had been Scott’s own high-school principal at Bradwell. Her main focus was middle-school curriculum.

“That’s when I first started working with Mr. (Willie) Graham and Tom Alexander, two people that have become lifelong friends,” Scott remarked.

Nesbitt left when Scott was named the new principal, and she has been there ever since. Scott said being a principal is demanding, but that never bothered her. Being a single woman without children allowed her to devote a lot of her personal time, energy and money into the high school.

“But after a while, everybody gets tired and winds down a little bit, and I think it’s time for someone else to have a chance,” Scott said.
She said retiring now is her own choice and has nothing to do with school-budget cuts.

“We knew that we would lose an assistant principal at Liberty High and Mr. Graham, being the fine gentleman that he is, was not about to let a younger educator have to move, when he already had his years in,” Scott said. “So when he said, ‘That needs to be me (who should leave),’ I was disappointed that we weren’t going out together like we planned.”

After some thought, Scott felt that it was her time to leave as well.

In fact, the timing of her announcement is her biggest regret. Scott called herself a go-quietly-when-nobody-is-around kind of person who avoids the spotlight. But she said it’s been nice to hear parents, students and staff express that they’re sorry to see her leave.

“It’s nice to know that people aren’t cheering,” she said. “They acknowledge that you really tried to do a good job and that they’re going to miss you when you’re gone.”

Her official last day is May 29, but Scott has assured Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee that she won’t leave any work undone. She mentioned having to put a schedule in place for next year, verifying HOPE Scholarship grade-point averages, signing off on student records and more work that needs to be completed.

“I’m going to make sure that everything is taken care of for my students and staff,” Scott said. “I’ll be here to help make the transition as smooth as possible.”

What Scott will miss the most are the people. She enjoyed the daily high-school routine. Interacting with students, going to sporting events, awards night and band concerts were joys for her. One of her favorite things is to see students who have graduated come back to Liberty, for homecoming or to visit family, and hear about the things they’ve accomplished.

“That’s the thing about high school,” she said. “We are so close to that transition to the real world, and we hear what people intend to do. We know where they’re going to school, what they’re going to major in, and we know what they want for themselves in life. You get a lot of satisfaction in knowing that they’ve followed through on that. A lot of them really do make their dreams come true.”  

Scott will soon enjoy the Florida sun and beaches after retirement. She bought a home in Fernandina Beach, near Jacksonville, 11 years ago and plans to spend time with her family there.

She said she gets to act like a kid again when she’s around her nieces and nephews — building sand castles, playing ladder ball and riding boogie boards. A trip out west also is on her agenda, with stops in California, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Scott said there are a number of places she wants to see but couldn’t before because of limited vacation days. She also plans to volunteer with youth organizations.

Scott is not looking for another career in education. Her brother gave her some advice that helped her put her career into prospective.

He told her, “If you’re looking to get out of the house because you’re bored, looking to get out and interact with people more because you don’t know how to fill your time, and you find yourself in that positon, remind yourself that you had a career. Your career was as a high-school principal, and that career is over. Now if you want to do something, go find a job, there’s a difference.”

She agreed. If she decides to get a job, it will be different than what she’s experienced.

To all LCHS students, parents and staff, Scott said, “I would like to say ‘thank you’ for letting me be a part of your children’s lives and your lives for many years. I’m very proud of Liberty County High School and the kids on the east end of Liberty. It’s a very special group, and I wish everyone the best.”

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