Over the last few years, Mary Jo Neil has amassed quite a resume in parent involvement in public schools.
Neil, 50, has sat on Parent Teacher Association boards from the school level, to the county, and state. And now, Neil is making a run for a seat on the Howard County Board of Education.
Neil, of West Friendship, said she is looking to strengthen the education system, reach untapped recourses, and engage the diversity within Howard County and the school system.
Neil is a stay-at-home mother of three and all of her children have attended public schools in Howard County. She said that she can relate to issues facing students and parents within the school system.
“I’m a parent and a wife and a community activist,” she said.
Neil is facing a crowded field of 13 candidates all vying for three slots on the school board, including a student member. The election primary is set for April 3.
Still, Neil said her experience makes her a standout candidate.
She’s participated on committees with the Maryland Department of Education and the Maryland Parent Advisory Council. Neil said her participation has given her keen insight on education policy.
“I have the time to run. I have the passion and I feel like I have the skill,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.”
Neil said she wants to ensure the county continues its tradition of a strong educational system. Even in lean fiscal times, she said, she wants to see what resources there are for schools in the community.
“Money is getting tighter,” she said. “So we have to look at other resources to capitalize our success.”
Neil said she wants to establish a Parent Advisory Council for the county that would work directly with the school superintendent. She envisions the council closing the gap between parents and administration within county schools.
“It’s an issue driven group,” she said.
She also is looking to engage the diverse population within Howard County. She said getting more involved in the school system can only make it stronger.
“I think it’s important to connect with these groups,” she said. “I think we do an awesome job educating our kids, but we can always do better.”