Latest in a series of school board candidate profiles.
Accessibility, accountability and achievement. Those are the three components of Jackie Scott's platform in her first run for the Howard County Board of Education.
"Think of it as a three-legged stool," Scott said. "Without any of those three things, our system falls down, falls short."
Scott, 45, of Columbia, is a member of the PTAs at Atholton High School and Clemens Crossing Elementary School, where two of her three children are students. A founding member of the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club of Howard County, Scott is a health law and policy instructor at Georgetown University Law Center, and a business leadership and organizational development instructor at the Washington, D.C., campus of Nyack College.
Accessibility, Scott said, is about students, parents and teachers having the resources they need to succeed.
"We have to meet our children where we are, meeting the needs of the families," Scott said. "We have to meet the needs of the students, from special needs all the way to gifted and talented students, and the students in the middle working hard every day. They have to have all the opportunities we can give them."
Accountability, Scott said, comes down to stepping back, looking at how the system works and making sure that everyone — from the board, to central office staff, to the classroom teachers — is accountable for every single level of decision-making. The community, local businesses and families fit in to that accountability, too, she said.
"Every child should feel like they own their own opportunities to get a good education," Scott said. "Businesses, too, invest in this community by partnering with our schools, so there is accountability at every level for the outcome of our children."
The stalwart, Scott said, is student achievement.
"We have to be laser-focused on our children, to make sure that we are cultivating the gifts and talents everyone has, to have the ability to be the best that they can be," she said.
The three sides to her platform are like a triangle, Scott said, so whatever point is on top is supported by the other two.
When it comes to the achievement gap, for example, accessibility to opportunities for all student groups and the accountability of the community, families and the board are at the base, supporting the achievement.
"The achievement gap is a persistent problem all across the country," Scott said. "When you peel back the layers to the onion, not every case of the achievement gap is based in socio-economics."
There isn't a one-pronged approach to eliminating the gap, Scott said, but some factors that could make a difference are hiring more black, male teachers, and taking a harder look at the curriculum — for example, better incorporating black history in lessons outside of Black History Month, Scott said.
"Are these students being taught by educators who look like them, who they can identify with?" Scott said. "Are they reading and writing about experiences that they can identify with? If I'm a student, if you can identify with something that I'm going through, I'm willing to open up to you. ... This is a global society, and we need to create a global view in the assignments."
Scott said her own children have told her numerous time that they are among the few black students in honors or Advanced Placement classes (her oldest graduated from Atholton this year).
"When you hear that, you know there's so many opportunities missed, for students to be broadening their own knowledge of their history and culture," she said.
The biggest issue facing the board right now, Scott said, is what she believes to be a "crisis of confidence."
"We've gone through a difficult time with the board and the public has been watching that," she said. "We're at a critical time, where we have a perfect storm of academic requirements coming our way .... and we have a tremendous opportunity to rise to another level to create a really excellent school system. ...But our community has to have confidence that the people in charge of setting policy are going to focus on our kids."
Scott's supporters think she will do just that.
"She's a professional person, with a warm personality," said Vivian Bailey, of Columbia, long-time community activist who has been honored by the Maryland House of Delegates and the County Council for her work on county housing, human rights and law enforcement committees. "She has the type of experience that is an asset to any organization."