Watson sets her sights on school board seat

Parent-activist plans to run this fall

Howard County

April 03, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

After years of working from the outside with school officials, parents and administrators to improve Howard schools, longtime parent-activist Courtney Watson has announced that she wants in - she will run for a seat on the school board this fall.

She is hoping to replace board Chairwoman Jane B. Schuchardt, who will step down in November.

If elected, Watson would be the only board member with children in the schools, which, she says, makes her a good fit for the board.

Watson lives in Ellicott City with her husband and three children.

"It is important to provide the perspective of a parent," Watson said.

Watson, 39, has become a presence in many school matters over the past several years. She helped launch the push for a new northeast elementary school, stronger development-control laws and a 12th high school in the county.

Her interest in schools began with the crowding at Ilchester Elementary, where her oldest child started school.

She started exploring the reasons behind the crowding, and ended up being appointed by County Executive James N. Robey to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance Committee. She became adept in reviewing enrollment projections and school and county budgets. She created a committee at Ilchester to deal with safety issues.

Her interests then moved to the challenges faced by the county's older schools, redistricting and open enrollment. Today, she says she is also passionate about closing achievement gaps.

"Really, my passion for this county comes from being a student in Howard County schools," said Watson, who attended Atholton Elementary, Clarksville Middle and Atholton High schools.

With 18 years of business experience, the commercial insurance agent said she can bring more efficiency to the board.

"I think they can stay on task at their meetings and stay focused on the critical goals of the school system. ... I have so much experience in meetings and facilitating. I can help with that."

Watson says she hopes she can help the county deal with the schools' rapid enrollment growth and changing demographics.

"These things present challenges to our teachers, and we need to provide different types of support than we've provided in the past when we didn't have these challenges," she said.

Since her foray into school issues in 1996 - when her oldest child entered kindergarten at Ilchester - Watson has earned a reputation as a hard-working activist, who is fair, thoughtful and knowledgeable.

"She brings to the table a wealth of knowledge in a very intelligent and fair manner without being judgmental and teachers liked that and the community liked that," said Ilchester Principal Jackie Conarton.

Schuchardt said she would feel "very comfortable" if Watson replaced her on the board.

"I just think she will do a wonderful job, and I think she will bring that youth to the board that we need."

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