School Runs In His Family

Newest Board Member Known For His Work Ethic

August 09, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Considering some of his family members, it's unlikely that Kevin Jackson, the newest member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, will be looking for a quick tutorial on school issues.

Jackson, a federal worker and Naval Academy graduate, is married to Monique Jackson, an assistant principal at Annapolis Middle School. His late aunt, Helen Jean Holt, taught at Mayo Elementary School for more than 30 years. Another aunt was also an educator.

"We sit around and talk about the issues," Jackson, 32, an Edgewater resident, said in a recent interview, though he added that he would be paying close attention to the budget process. "I get educated. It's a family that's interested in education by virtue."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Anne Arundel section of last Sunday's editions incorrectly identified the Anne Arundel County school board member whose seat has been filled by newly appointed member Kevin Jackson. He is Michael G. Leahy.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Jackson, who was appointed to a five-year term on the board in July after at-large board member Tricia Johnson was appointed to a seat on the County Council, said he is eager to try to make positive change in the public schools now, noting that he and his wife of eight years do not yet have children.

"It takes time to make change," Jackson said. "If you want to impact something positively in our society, then you best get into it early."

Jackson grew up in Jackson, Tenn., about an hour outside Memphis, with his mother, sister and stepfather and had frequent visits with his father, who lived nearby. Family and friends said Jackson's strong work ethic was apparent from a young age.

"He was always involved," said his sister, Danielle Spencer, a college student studying mathematics. She said her older brother worked as a restaurant host, played football, soccer and basketball and joined the Junior ROTC during high school.

"He made good grades as well," said Spencer. "It put a lot of pressure on me. I felt pressure to do as good as he did."

After graduating from high school in 1995, he was nominated for the Naval Academy by his congressman and came to Annapolis. Jackson's grandfather is a World War II veteran, and an uncle was also in the military.

He met his wife in Annapolis in 1999, the year he graduated from the Naval Academy.

During his Navy career, he served on the destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford as the electrical officer and damage control assistant and as the fire control officer on the cruiser USS Vella Gulf. His travels took him to Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

During his active service with the Navy, he struck up a friendship with a woman battling cancer. Pat Mitchell, a retired certified medical transcriptionist who lives in Hampton, Va., with her husband, was struggling with her diagnosis when her pastor gave her the e-mail address of a young Navy man who was away on his first deployment. They instantly bonded, Mitchell said in a recent interview.

"The pastor said he was lonely, so I wrote him," said Mitchell, 65. "I wrote him about my tomato plants. Come to find out he was a Tennessee farmboy; he knew all about plants. From then on, we just clicked. And it was helpful that I knew something about the academy because I had dated an academy man."

The two eventually met in person and have remained friends. When Jackson's later work in Washington brought him to the Norfolk area, he stayed at the Mitchell home. Jackson's strong work ethic and dedication was obvious, she said.

"I saw him up at 2 o'clock in the morning working to accomplish what he needed to accomplish," Mitchell said. "Kevin is part of our family. He's like a son to us."

Jackson's last active-duty assignment was serving as a flag lieutenant for the commandant at the Naval District in Washington, which oversees all of the Navy installations within a 100-mile radius of the Pentagon. Jackson is now in the Naval Reserve, serving as a lieutenant commander for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

In March, he began working for the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington. He also works with midshipmen through a program at the Annapolis Church of Christ in Arnold called the Midshipmen/College Age Ministry Leader.

Jackson, who had previously sought a post on the school board, a process he called "very fair," said he is anxious to begin the hard work of a school board member.

He said he sees room for "personal responsibility" when it comes to children's health, though he doesn't think schools should have vending machines "that have a lot of potato chips [and other snacks] filled with sugar and fat."

And good facilities are key to learning, Jackson said. Of the school system's $1 billion maintenance backlog, he said, "If you don't have good facilities, don't expect them to learn as easily. Maintenance will always be a challenge."

On budget issues, Jackson said his main priority would be "wanting to not waste one single penny of taxpayer dollars."

He said he imagined that working on the school department budget would not be much different from putting together any other budget.

"What are your problems and how do these rack and stack against each other?" Jackson said. "We establish requirements first, and what are those requirements going to cost us?"

Jackson already has kind words for Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell.

"I think he's an excellent superintendent, and we're blessed to have him in Anne Arundel County," Jackson said, adding that when his aunt passed away last year after a more than 37-year teaching career in the county school system, the superintendent was "absolutely phenomenal" in working with his family.

Jackson said of serving on the school board: "If you want to give back, there's no better way to give back. At the end of the day, it's really about children and the teachers that are teaching the students."

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