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Newcomers vying for BoE District 4 seat
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With incumbent Marcia Anderson electing not to seek re-election, the District 4 seat on the Liberty County Board of Education will be filled by one of three political newcomers, Karen Branson, Jim Johns or Annette Payne.
Here are their profiles, in alphabetical order.

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Karen Branson

Reason for running:
I am running to give the voters of District 4 a choice. I am a concerned citizen running for a non-partisan position on the school board. The time has come for the citizenry to raise the bar, restore civility to the public discourse and demand accountability from its representatives. District 4 is lucky to have three competent candidates.
• Practice fiscal responsibility through transparency.
• Support all stakeholders (learners, LCSS, parents and community).
• Respect other members when communicating an opposing point of view.
• Vote with clear understanding of the facts and best interest of LCSS.
• Serve no more than two terms. (Elected positions should have term limits)
• Work to protect the public school system and its resources from the opportunity school initiative.
• Never compromise my principles, even if it means standing alone or losing public favor.

Top three priorities if elected:
1. Complete the appropriate training for school board members.
2. Request a comprehensive review of the LCSS to learn and understand its current state; identify areas for improvement and collaborate with the administration to prioritize goals.
3. Recommend a formal program to focus on the recruitment and retention of educators and support staff, if one does not exist.

Branson and husband hail from East Saint Louis, Illinois, a small city five minutes from the Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri, but on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. She married after high school and entered the United States Army. Branson served on active duty for nearly 12 years, then decided to complete her education with first an associate of arts degree (1996) and a bachelor’s degree (1998; business management) from Saint Leo University in Florida. She went on to earn a dual master’s degrees in leadership and human resource management from Webster University. She was employed by the state as an information technology customer service rep and project manager for nearly 20 years. Today, she works as an IT business consultant with a private overseas firm.
She has participated in voter registration drives and completed the Leadership Liberty program in 2013. She has volunteered with the Liberty County School System and is an active board member with the Liberty County Armed Services YMCA.
On April 4, Branson celebrated 31 years of marriage to her high school prom date. Col. Charles Branson commands the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC.

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James “Jim” Johns

Reason for running:
I believe that I would bring a business approach to the board. With my experience owning a business, my involvement with non-profit organizations, and being a member of several boards I would bring to the table years of experience in board procedures and problem solving experience.

I believe there needs to be an infusion of new people who bring different experiences and fresh perspectives required to make necessary decisions and changes. Decisions that are vital for leading our schools forward. I will do this, I will listen and will make those tough decisions, making our schools a real place of learning and where parents want their children to learn and teachers have the necessary resources and technology to provide the very best education available in a safe, secure environment. I will strive to ensure that our school system is financially sound that we are fiscally responsible for its assets.

Top three priorities if elected:
1. Help restore respect and confidence in the school board by being a team player.
2. Listen to the teachers, parents and other board members so I can help make the school system a better place to learn.
3. Ensure that District 4 is being represented to the board on their issues by informing the district through various platforms with honesty and candid answers.


Born and Raised in Jacksonville, Fla. Retired U.S. Army first sergeant, attended City Colleges of Chicago. Owned and operated Sign Concepts, Inc. in Liberty County for more than 18 years. Past CEO (volunteer) of Alee Shriners, Shriners International, current CFO (volunteer) Alee Shriners, Shriners International, Savannah, current general secretary (appointment) Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Savannah. I have been married to the former Rhonda (Cheri) Groover for 43 years. I have two children who attended Liberty County schools and have one granddaughter attending Liberty County Schools. I am a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and member of the American Legion. I attend various churches in Liberty County.


Annette Payne

Reason for running:
I decided to run for the Liberty County School Board, District 4, because I would like the Liberty County School System to once again be a place where teachers want to work and students want to attend. The community is directly impacted by the quality of the school system and many families are choosing to locate in surrounding areas.
I feel my educational and leadership experience uniquely qualifies me for this position.

I would like to improve the public perception of the Liberty County School System and be a part of setting policies that will lead to increased student achievement and a positive school climate.
Top three priorities if elected:
1. Improve the public perception of the Liberty County School System.
2. Increase student achievement.
3. Promote a positive school climate which includes but is not limited to improving discipline.

I moved to Hinesville in 2001 when my husband was stationed at Fort Stewart. While my husband was in the Army I taught mathematics at Liberty County High and served as a Family Readiness Group Leader.
I was awarded the Commanding General’s Pot of Gold Volunteer Recognition Award. As retirement from the Army approached, we decided to remain in Hinesville. We will very soon celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Our two sons graduated from the Liberty County School System and I taught mathematics there for 16 years.
Education: My educational background is bachelor of science, mathematics education from Northwestern State University; master of education, educational leadership and dducational specialist, secondary education, both from Georgia Southern University.
I also attended Georgia Leadership for School Improvement as a teacher leader and as a member of the Liberty County High School leadership team.
I have received numerous awards in my teaching career: Liberty County System teacher of the year, Liberty County High School teacher of the year, Walmart teacher of the year, Liberty County System STAR teacher.

For the past two years I have served as the altruism chairman for an international honorary organization of women educators. We collected over 1,800 books in one day for USO reading rooms and many of these books were earmarked for the new reading room on Fort Stewart.

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