SPRINGFIELD — The passage of time has done nothing to diminish Lamar Allen’s passion for education.
The 11-year chairman of the Effingham County Board of Education is seeking his fifth term as the representative of District 3.
“My whole goal is to achieve what is best for the kids in this county,” he said.
Effingham County’s standing in state education rankings has improved exponentially since he won his first election in 2004.
“The graduation rate, test scores, everything is sky high,” he said.
In most categories, Effingham County sits at or near the top in the Regional Education Service Agency’s First District and in the top 15 in Georgia.
A six-year member of the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Board of Directors, Allen is proud of the district’s graduation rate, especially for black students.
“It’s, I think, at 91 percent now and it was like 64 when I came on the board,” Allen said. “I think the board, not necessarily me, has done a great job.”
Allen, born and raised in Clyo, said managing enrollment growth is the board’s top priority. The district has more than 13,000 students and typically adds a few hundred each year.
“Getting money is our project because we’ve got to build schools and we have no money to build schools with,” he said. “That state is not going to give us the money to build schools.”
The district has placed a $100 million bond referendum on the June 19 ballot. If approved, it would fund the construction of an elementary school, a middle school and other needed projects.
“I understand why people are coming here,” Allen said. “They are coming here for the schools. We know that but we’ve got to deal with it.”
Allen, an active Rotarian and member of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, is concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19 will have on the board’s budget. Sales tax revenue will surely be lower than projected because of business closings and the shelter-in-place order enacted in March.
“There is no way it can help but go down because nobody is buying anything,” he said.
The board’s usual sense of frugality will help it weather the storm, Allen said.
“We are very fortunate that we had enough money put aside (during the Great Recession of 2008) that we didn’t have to lay people off like a lot of people did,” he explained. “We are conservative and we kept a good nest egg to fall back on.”