After 31 years employment with Bulloch County’s public schools, Paul Webb will conclude his service as their chief operations officer Friday to start as director of planning and system athletic director for the Bryan County Schools the following Monday, July 1.
As COO the past five years, he was administrator over the directors and supervisors of transportation, school food services and maintenance of buildings and grounds for Bulloch County Schools’ 15 campuses, which serve more than 10,500 students. But Webb, whose 37 years as an educator began with a stretch as a history teacher and basketball coach, said he is way too young to retire at 59.
So he is looking forward to new challenges in the neighboring school district, which is nearly as large and growing rapidly.
“All of that came about pretty quickly, but I was offered a job and just took some time and prayed about it, and felt that’s where God was leading me,” Webb said. “It was a great offer, an opportunity that I just didn’t feel like I could pass up.”
A Bulloch County native, he is one of six Webb brothers and sisters, five of whom have or had careers in education. As he cleared his office this week, some of the last objects on the walls were photos from inside the Nic Nac Grill, a now vanished but fondly remembered downtown Statesboro restaurant owned and operated by their parents, the late R.C. and Ella Ree Webb.
From age 6 Paul Webb had his first job in the family business, cleaning tables, he said. An adding machine that was in the restaurant when his father bought it in 1946 also awaited the move as part of his office décor.
Another story Webb tells in relation to his work ethic is from his second year teaching and coaching in the Bulloch County system. Coach Fred Shaver, a family friend of the Webbs, was then the assistant superintendent. So when Webb was frustrated with some things in the school where he was working, he asked to talk to Shaver, who told him to stop by.
“Now, Coach Shaver … never pulled any punches,” Webb recalled. “About three minutes into me voicing my grievances, he abruptly stopped me and pointed to a two-feet-high stack of resumes sitting on his desk. He said ‘Paul, you see that stack of resumes? All of those people want your job. I suggest you go back into your classroom, work hard and have a great attitude.’”
That was the end of the meeting, and the message stuck with him, Webb noted with an “LOL” in an email this week.
Teaching and coaching
After graduating from Statesboro High School, Webb had gone to Georgia Southern, first for a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in history. He later attained two master’s degrees – one in education and one in athletic administration, plus an education specialist degree and leadership certification, all from Georgia Southern.
He taught and coached his first three years at private Bulloch Academy, then left for Elbert County High School in Elberton. But after only one year in Elberton, he was hired in 1987 to coach the girls basketball team at Statesboro High. Two years later he was hired by Georgia Southern as the assistant women’s basketball coach, where he also served just two years, finding that college coaching required more travel than he was prepared to do at the time, he said.
So Webb returned to Statesboro High, teaching and coaching. He was SHS girls basketball coach 16 years total. Later, while working in administrative roles for the public system, he coached part-time for a decade at Bulloch Academy. Webb has also coached football, baseball, softball and track.
After getting his leadership degree, Webb served as an assistant principal for four years until the late Dr. Jessie Strickland, then superintendent, chose him to be system transportation director in 2006.
Current Superintendent Charles Wilson promoted Webb to chief operations officer in 2014.
One of the most visible aspects of Webb’s job has been working with architects, builders, suppliers and community committees while seeing capital projects funded by the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, through to completion.
Bulloch County’s fourth, five-year E-SPLOST, approved by voters in November 2017, commits millions of dollars to technology purchases, school safety improvements and school bus purchases for the first time. This follows waves of school construction, which replaced most of the buildings in the system, under previous E-SPLOST installments.
But Webb has recently seen to the installation of new playground equipment at several schools and upgrades to some athletic facilities, among other E-SPLOST projects.
Middle school fields
He leaves plans developed but not yet fulfilled for multiple-sport field complexes at Langston Chapel Middle School, Southeast Bulloch Middle School and William James Middle School. One year ago, Webb unveiled an initiative to use these complexes and existing facilities at Portal Middle High School to create after-school, campus-based sports leagues in cooperation with the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department and other agencies.
Webb has also served as the Bulloch school system’s Title IX coordinator, over compliance with the federal law on gender equity, most often associated with, but not limited to, school athletics.
Bryan County has school-level athletic directors, so his system AD role will involve central-office issues such as Title IX, and he hopes to put his 30 years coaching experience to use as a resource for the schools, he said.
Planning for Bryan
As director of planning, Webb will not oversee a school bus system or food services. But he will help guide progress on school construction in one of Georgia’s fastest growing counties. From October 2013 to October 2018, while Bulloch County Schools’ enrollment grew 6.6 percent, from 9,991 students to 10,646, Bryan County Schools’ enrollment grew 16 percent, from 8,253 students to 9,639.
In March 2017, Bryan County voters authorized up to $100 million in bond sales to finance school construction, along with an E-SPLOST extension. The major projects include a new Richmond Hill High School and a new elementary school to be built near it, and Webb expects to help move these forward. The 10-campus system also includes schools in Pembroke and the Black Creek area, where its central office is located.
A lifetime Bulloch County resident except for that year at Elberton, Webb isn’t moving but is trading a one-minute commute for 35 minutes each way.
He expressed appreciation to Bryan County Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher for his new job. Webb also said he loved the job he is leaving, and thanks Wilson for it.
“We appreciate all that Paul has done for our community,” Wilson said in a brief interview after a Board of Education meeting in May. “We are truly going to miss him but understand that opportunities present themselves, and I respect his decision.”
Wilson has yet to announce whether he will hire a new COO or structure his staff in some other way.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.