Laurel academic advisor Zabrina Epps hopes to counsel school board on college preparedness -- Gazette.Net


Zabrina Epps said her job as an academic advisor at the Community College of Baltimore County for the past eight years has given her insight into how unprepared some Maryland students are to enter higher education or the workforce.

She wants to offer that insight to Prince George’s County schools as the District 1 school board member.

After placement tests, said Epps, 40, of Laurel, “upwards of 60 percent of these students will place anywhere from one semester to two years below college level in reading comprehension or math skills, especially algebra.”

Epps, who previously never had run for public office, is one of three candidates running in District 1, which includes Lanham, Northern Bowie, Laurel, Beltsville and Adelphi. Incumbent Rosalind Johnson will not seek re-election. The top two vote-getting candidates in the April 4 primary will face off in the general election Nov. 6.

Most of the students she meets with are from Baltimore County, but she occasionally sees a student from Prince George’s, and she tutors mostly Prince George’s students in SAT preparation through her church, First Baptist Church of North Brentwood. She says she sees the same problems.

“They don’t feel well prepared,” Epps said. “These are incredibly bright children who, under a great curriculum that wasn’t so bogged down in standardized tests, could succeed.”

Audrey James has worked with Epps in the Christian education department at the church for about 20 years, and said she has seen Epps encourage youths to aim high.

Despite whatever challenges they face — and we’ve had students with academic challenges and personal challenges — she tells them it doesn’t matter, that they still have the same opportunities for success as everyone else,” James said.

Epps said her focus as a school board member would be on making high school graduates college- and career-ready, using technology to teach to all kinds of learners, and facilitating more communication between the schools and parents of English language learners and students with disabilities.

She added she doesn’t have specific plans to accomplish those goals yet, but would develop strategies once on the board.

Sterling Marshall, a teacher at Forestville Military Academy, works with Epps in the SAT preparatory course at their church.

“Our students need a lot of help,” Marshall said. “You have to know where they need to be, so that you can guide them there. Zabrina knows that, so I’m fully confident that she’s going to be able to do that as a school board member.”