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With passing of gavel, Jones begins tenure as BOE chair
Outgoing Liberty County Board of Education chair Lily Baker, left, hands the gavel to her successor, Verdell Jones, during a swearing-in ceremony held at the school system central office. Photos by Pat Donahue

The gavel for the Liberty County Board of Education has been passed to Verdell Jones.

Jones, who represented District 1 on the board for 14 years, will preside over her first board meeting January 10, 2023, taking over for Lily Baker. Baker, who spent 16 years as board chair, retired.

“I am humbled to lead this Liberty County school board,” Jones said. “I served for 14 years. I absolutely did not want to give up my District 1 seat. But we understand that promotion comes from the Lord but it is His people who do the work.”

Baker said she took pride in passing the gavel to Jones.

“My heart is full of joy as I have watched you for 14 years work hard on this board,” Baker said. “Your heart has always been about the children and taking care of our staff. I look forward to your leadership.”

Jones said she learned much during the process of running for school board chair and said her goal is to keep moving the district forward.

“We have such greatness to build on,” she said. “We are going to continue to build and take care of our children.”

Jones also offered her support for the more than 1,400 faculty and staff who work with the system’s nearly 11,000 students each day.

“We want to take care of the people who take care of the little people, then we can see illiteracy go down and we can build scholars,” she said. “If we can take care of the people who take care of the little people, we will see the dropout rate go down and the graduation go up. If we take care of the people who take care of the little people, we will see the incarceration rate go down and we will see businesses launched. If we take care of the people who take care of the little people, then we will make sure that all of us can live a better quality of life.”

Jones said she could live anywhere she wanted but she chose Liberty County for a simple reason.

“I say these are the best people in the world,” she said.

Also taking their oaths of office were Lavonia LeCounte, who is replacing Jones in the District 1 post, and Natalie Hines, who won the open seat for District 4.

LeCounte thanked state Rep. Al Williams for pushing her to run for the seat. “When I said I could not do it, he fussed at me,” she said. “Thank you for being my supporter.”

LeCounte also offered her gratitude for the support of the late Jack Waters and other District 1 voters.

“To District 1, thank you so, so, so, so very much,” she said. “Your voice was heard and it was heard so strong that I didn’t have anyone opposing.”

LeCounte added her goal was to be a team player and to see that the school system’s first and foremost priority is the students. She said she wanted to make sure the staff has the tools it needs and to welcome parents and stakeholders into the process.

“We want them to engage,” she said. Hines, who is replacing the retiring James Johns in the District 4 seat, said she was grateful for the opportunity.

“I am here to be of service,” she said. “I stand before you as a member of a mighty and great team.”

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