When T.G. Scott Elementary opened in 2004 it was the first time there had been district lines for schools in Monroe County. Parents and students had to adapt to the new concept of where you lived determined which elementary school would be yours. Dr. Richard Bazemore took the job of steering the new T.G. Scott Elementary and has kept it on course for the last 17 years.
Bazemore has decided it is time to retire. He said he has been able to accomplish many of the professional goals he set for himself and there are things that he wants to do, especially things he and his wife, Janne, would like to do together, that he can’t do while working full time as principal.
“It’s been a good school, a great school,” Bazemore said of T.G. Scott. “The key has been hiring the right people and getting the right people in the right spots.”
He feels he is leaving T.G. Scott in good hands with new principal Chad Sanders, who has served as assistant principal under Bazemore. He said Sanders will put his own stamp on the school. Several people have told Bazemore that he will always be “Papa Bear,” a moniker assigned to him after the new T.G. Scott staff voted to make T.G. Scott’s mascot the bear.
“Everybody’s proud to be a bear,” said Bazemore, although he noted that he is also a life time bulldog, with allegiance to the Mary Persons and University of Georgia bulldogs.
Bazemore grew up in Monroe County, in a family with local roots several generations deep. His grandparents had a dairy farm, one of about 35 dairy farms operating in Monroe County when he grew up. His father operated the Colonial Grocery Store in Forsyth.
Later, when he was in college, his father and uncle bought the E.W. Banks Company, a dry goods store on the square in Forsyth that was founded in the early 1900’s. It was an integral part of a thriving downtown district for several decades.
Bazemore earned his undergraduate degree in business administration and had no plans to be a teacher. However that mindset began to change shortly after he graduated and was a substitute teacher at Mary Persons and coached football, girls basketball and track.
He loved coaching and wanted to be a coach. In about 1981 he accepted a position as a football coach at Georgia Southwesten College in Americus. He then became head football coach at Barnesville Academy and got interested in school administration. After pursuing graduate work, he served as headmaster at schools in South Georgia from 1988-95, when he returned to Monroe County to become assistant principal at Monroe County Middle School.
In 2000 Bazemore became principal of Hubbard Elementary School, which then served about 900 students in grades 3-5. At that time Hubbard Primary School served Monroe County students in grades K-2. The faculty had to be split between the Primary School and the Elementary School. A few years later K.B. Sutton Elementary opened and staff had to be split again between the existing schools and the new school.
“I’m glad I won’t ever have to do that again,” said Bazemore. “Those were hard decisions.”
Before K.B. Sutton opened, T.G. Scott was packed with over 1,000 students. After the reduction with the new school, the T.G. Scott student body has grown gradually and will have 800-825 students this fall.
“We want slow, steady growth and quality growth,” said Bazemore, noting that for every 25 more students, Monroe County Schools needs one more teacher in the right place.
Bazemore has been on the board of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, which assists city and county governments in 11 counties, since about 2009 and has served as its chair.
He has also been a member of several educational leadership organizations. He is currently president of the Georgia Association of Education Leaders (GAOL). He has been on the GAOL board since 2001 and will move into the position of past president in July.
Bazemore has also been president of the Georgia Elementary School Principals Association. He was named a 2019 National Distinguished Principal in May 2019 and represented Georgia at the national conference that October. He received the Jim Puckett Outstanding Educator Award from GAOL. Bazemore said it’s important to get involved in state professional organizations for networking and professional learning opportunities.
“I can pick up the phone and call principals and superintendents across the state [for information and advice],” he said.
Bazemore said he doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement, planning to take a break and think about what he wants to do next. He and Janne plan some travel around the U.S., with an eye toward Europe and Canada, too. They have three daughters and seven grandchildren, the youngest of which just graduated from high school. Just visiting all the other grandchildren will take them around the Southeast, with one in Alabama, three in Florida, one in South Carolina and one in Tennessee.
He said his wife, who was in education for 47 years before retiring, is excited about his retirement, but he thinks he will drive her nuts. He said he hasn’t pursued any hobbies in recent years but does like to hunt and fish and used to play a lot of golf. He has also been active at First Baptist Forsyth over the years.
“Over my 46 years in education, I’ve seen a lot of stuff come and go, but teachers love students, and they need a principal to lead in the right direction. Leadership is key to success, whether in the classroom, the building or the community,” said Bazemore. “Thank you to the Board of Education for allowing me to be here as long as I have. I appreciate their support. Thank you to the staff at T.G.Scott for their support. I wish all of them the best in the future.”