Rayford vying for D3 Board of Education seat

Apr. 27—After once working under Lyn Chandler, the former principal of Baldwin High School, Beverly Rayford now wishes to succeed Chandler as the District 3 representative on the Baldwin County Board of Education.

Chandler opted not to seek reelection for District 3 this year. Rayford is one of two candidates for the post that will be decided on May 21, early voting beginning on Monday.

Rayford is a Georgia native, born in Fort Gaines in Clay County, but was raised from infancy in New York and was educated pre-college in the New York school system. She returned more than 30 years ago to "complete my journey" in the teaching field.

"I have the pleasure of being southern born and northern raised," said Rayford, who has taught in Baldwin, Putnam and Hancock counties. Hancock had a program that dealt with children with behavioral issues, and her degree is in special education from Georgia College & State University after earning associate's accreditation from Brooklyn College.

"In this journey I have seen things that I like, things that I don't like. I stand for three principles: equality, excellence and experience. I have found that out of all those areas that children have been a motivator for me. I love children. I love to see them prosper and gain their standards and their personalities.

"Working with special education was a challenge. It was something I saw as a need because there were no boundaries that we had to set. We had equality. We felt they were just as equal as any other child.

"I strive for excellence, in their work, their daily walk, in school grounds. Every child did not take to the testing, but they were able to be measured in other capacities.

"Experience. My experience not only in public schools but in the YDCs (Youth Development Campuses) in the prison system. I taught the GED program. I was the first to receive the Teacher of the Year, the highest number of graduates to get their GED in the prison system. I count it all a joy."

She is married to Clarence Rayford, a licensed pastor for 42 years. The Rayfords, married for 54 years, set up school in their church, Second Beulah Baptist, with the goal of making children feel they had a place there. She said her husband also exposed young people to the administrative part of church as well as the spiritual. They practice being deacons, ushers and speakers.

"We have too many children who are losing their standards. They don't know themselves," she said. "We often make sure we are pushing for their wholeness in everything that they do."

At every school she served, Rayford said the principal gave her the chance to branch into something different. She remembered one student who needed special attention, and she provided in even though she was not the classroom teacher assigned to him at this particular school. She was invited to come in and check on the child.

"We made a difference in every student's life, but I took pride in that," said Rayford.

Her career in teaching began in 1985 at the elementary school level and then moved on to secondary. She taught at Baldwin High when Chandler was principal and at the middle school summer program under Sammy Hall, who is now a Baldwin County commissioner. She was originally a substitute teacher, but was told she had the makings of a good full-time instructor.

"Mr. Chandler was a very good principal," said Rayford. "He gave me a lot of assistance in working in special education resource unit. My senior teacher was Mrs. Freeman. She and Kathleen Cooper, the other resource teacher, when I was attending Georgia College they allowed me to come into their classrooms. I did my student teaching there."

The Baldwin School Board has received numerous accolades in recent years. Rayford looks at some of the system's strong points as being after-school programs that expose students to technology.

"When the (pandemic) was going on, all of these things were made possible," she said. "Each family that has students in the schools may not have had laptops and computers, but the school had them and allotted them to several children to take home to do their work."

She supports efforts to bring the community into the schools. Local law enforcement has come in to show it has a "good side," and Georgia Power had a program that provided graduating seniors with grant money to use for college.

"It is a school system I have seen positives, and I want to see more positives," she said. "I want to see the community and the schools working hand in hand making sure we get more programs to assist students, to show students the job market is varied and they can reach for anything they want to strive for."

More hand in hand work Rayford would like to see in Baldwin is with the teachers.

"We don't want teacher burnout," she said. "We want to assist the teachers in whichever way we can to make sure they are supported and we are still giving quality education to the students. The families, parents, be available to whatever the need is if it arrives at a critical time of the student's life. Everybody should join forces in making sure every affordable opportunity is allowed."

Rayford said she likes the Grow Your Own initiative that involves various colleges and how much input her alma mater, Georgia College & State University, has in public schools. That includes Georgia College Early College which she said gives students the chance to see and hear things they are going to be faced with in the coming years as young adults.

The Rayfords have two adult children. Their daughter Elish is a Baldwin High graduate and a registered nurse. Their son Gerard is also a Baldwin High graduate who enlisted in the Navy. They have two grandchildren.