Press Release, Charles County Board of Education

Members of the Board of Education of Charles County XVII took the oath of office yesterday during a swearing-in ceremony held at North Point High School. Four new Board Members – Tajala Battle-Lockhart, Elizabeth Brown, David Hancock and Latina Wilson – were elected in November to their first term in office and join incumbents Jennifer Abell, Michael Lukas and Virginia McGraw, who were re-elected.

Board members serve a four-year term and elect officers annually at the January meeting. Krisha Patel, student member of the Board of Education and Westlake High School senior, officiated the ceremony. North Point students in the Air Force JROTC Color Guard, string quartet and Eagles in Harmony set the stage for the ceremony, providing the presentation of colors prelude and national anthem. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Hill welcomed the new Board and ceremony guests.

In her welcoming remarks, Hill shared her excitement to begin working with a new Board. “The seven people who will take their oath of office today will provide vision and direction for Charles County Public Schools for the next four years. You have been entrusted with providing leadership for the academic success of more than 27,000 students. Together, our students are counting on us, and I know that we won’t let them down,” Hill said.

Sharon Hancock, clerk of the Circuit Court for Charles County, administered the oath of office to each member. Taking the oath of office first was Abell, followed by Battle-Lockhart, Brown, Hancock, Lukas, McGraw and Wilson. Each elected member of the Board of Education XVII then took a moment to provide remarks.

Abell, who is a fourth-term Board member, said she is excited to continue a pledge she made 14 years ago to support the children of Charles County. “Fourteen years ago I made a pledge to serve the children in Charles County. I keep that pledge in mind with every effort on behalf of Charles County Public Schools. This Board through collaborative efforts will work diligently to provide young people the best education possible,” Abell said.

Abell is the Senior Development Manager for the March of Dimes Greater Washington, D.C., Market and a longtime resident of Charles County. She was first appointed to the Board in 2004.

This is the first term for Battle-Lockhart, who is the chief executive officer of Simply Consulting, LLC and a certified hospitality educator. She is also the executive director of Phenomenal Young Women, a board member for Arnold House and a member of Real Women of Charles County. She asked her daughter, Chelsey, to help her take the oath of office and credits their bond as a reason for seeking to join the Board.

Following the Dec. 17 swearing-in ceremony for the Board of Education of Charles County XVII, members, from left, Virginia McGraw, Michael Lukas, David Hancock, Latina Wilson, Elizabeth Brown, Tajala Battle-Lockhart and Jennifer Abell, pledge their commitment to team work with an “all-in” handshake. The new Board officially meets for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 8.  

“She is my reason. If I can get it right for her, I hope to get it right for the rest of our children. I am so excited to be a part of this awesome team. Today, I am proud to be before you and thank those who voted for me,” Battle-Lockhart said.

Brown is a retired Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) pupil personnel worker and former classroom teacher. Brown also served as president of the Education Association of Charles County (EACC) for five years and is the current president of the CCPS Retired School Personnel Association. She is newly elected to the Board and is excited for her new role.

“I am excited and looking forward to working with our students, parents and educational leaders. I look forward to working with these great people and have our school system be great,” Brown said.

This is the first term for Hancock, who is a small business owner and manages Hancock Family Farms in La Plata. He is a past president and current board member of the Charles County Farm Bureau, and serves as a board member of both the Eastern Virginia Feeder Calf Association and University of Maryland Extension Advisory Board.

In his remarks, Hancock expressed his commitment to bringing the Board together. “I ran on a platform of unity and believe in bringing everyone together. We are all on the same team. I hope we can all work together to put what matters first before us. I can’t wait to get started,” Hancock said.

Lukas is returning for his third term as a Board member and is an engineer and branch manager for the Department of the Navy. He is a longtime Charles County resident and active volunteer in the community. Lukas, who previously served as both Board chairman and vice chairman, said he looks forward to working with the new Board.

“We need to build bridges and not walls so our children can succeed. We all have talents that we bring to help create the school system our kids need and deserve,” Lukas said.  

McGraw was re-elected to her second term this year and previously served as chairman. She is a retired elementary school principal who also served as a vice principal and teacher during her 25-year career with CCPS. She was honored as the 2009 CCPS Principal of the Year and is an active member of the CCPS Retired School Personnel Association, EACC and Maryland State Education Association.

McGraw said although she knows the Board will face challenges over the next four years, she will strive to put the best interests of students first. “Through my experience on the Board, I learned about the importance of collaboration and teamwork. I also learned that the most sincere form of respect is to listen to someone. I will strive to make decisions that best support every child in Charles County,” McGraw said.

Wilson is a Gulf War veteran who retired from the U.S. Army after serving for 20 years. She is active in the Charles County community and serves as president of the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, and president of the Southern Maryland Alumni Chapter for the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. Wilson also served as the education liaison for the Charles County Branch of the NACCP.

Wilson is newly elected to the Board and said she is honored to work on behalf of the children in Charles County. “I am so excited and delighted to be entrusted with this responsibility. It is a source of pride for me. I have attended several Board meetings and it has been an eye opening experience to see the complexity of education. I am confident that we will be successful … we are united by our passion,” Wilson said.

The new Board has its first meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8. During the meeting, the Board will elect a chairman and vice chairman to serve a one-year term. To learn more about the Board of Education XVII, visit https://www.ccboe.com/index.php/member-profiles. The swearing-in ceremony is online athttps://tinyurl.com/y8wczvhb.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...