PERRY -- Mark Scott realized he wanted a career in education while spending time at Scott State Prison in Hardwick, where he worked as a correctional officer while attending the University of Georgia.
He taught youthful offenders heating and air conditioning.
They just made bad decisions and got caught up with the wrong crowd, Scott said. It really made me realize how big of a need there was for interventions for kids.
Scott worked almost 10 years in the correctional system before moving to public education as an assistant principal at Baldwin High School in Milledgeville. Described as a driven leader, Scott has taken a deliberate path in his professional development and is now preparing himself to become Houston Countys next superintendent. He is the sole finalist for the position.
In the early 2000s, while working as a middle school principal in Baldwin County, Scott was tapped for a two-year superintendent development program conducted by the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
Scott learned about things like managing a school district, funding and budgeting, facilities and capital outlays.
That was really the start of my interest in system administration, Scott said. I felt like the higher up in an educational organization I went the more that I was going to be able to help kids and really shape the direction of a school system.
The superintendent development program required that Scott sacrifice one weekend per month for two years to complete it. And for two of the three years he was Northside High Schools principal, he also worked to earn a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from Mercer University.
Despite having to balance his job, family and studies, he always had time for everybody at Northside High, and his office was always spotless, said Debra Silsbee, a special education teacher.
Silsbee, whose first year at Northside High was Scotts first as principal, said he was always even-tempered with teachers and students.
Its amazing how somebody can have that much on their plate and pull it off so well, she said.
At Northside High, Scott also proved himself capable of making hard decisions, said David Carpenter, Houston Countys superintendent at the time.
He wants to take care of the people who work for him, but at the same time he is going to do the right thing, Carpenter said.
Scott moved to the systems central office in 2011 and became assistant superintendent of human resources, where he was also asked to make difficult decisions.
In his position he supports school principals having to deal with personnel problems by offering to sit in on and lead meetings.
Hes the type, when he talks to you, its not like hes above you, said Cynthia Hammond, Westside Elementary School principal.
Scott has been a frequent visitor to Westside Elementary, Hammond said, both to present ideas to staff and to help her with personnel issues.
Employees he gives bad news to in a meeting are treated with respect and leave with their dignity intact, Hammond said.
Houston County schools perform well, Scott said, but continuing the push to improve over the last several years has required creativity in dealing with limited resources.
In 2014, Houston County schools received $1.25 million less from the state than in 2008 despite serving 2,000 more students, Scott said.
Weve had to become more efficient at what we do, Scott said. Weve had to really ask our teachers to take on more. As we go forward were hoping that the economy is going to continue to strengthen. Were hoping that were going to be able to relieve the teachers of some of that stress.
Scott said he is not thinking of proposing any major changes if the school board approves a contract for him at its next meeting in April and he takes over as superintendent June 1.
As the father of a special needs student at Northside High, however, he acknowledged that special education will always remain a passion.
His son, who will graduate from the system this year, has autism and is severely limited academically.
He has a great group of teachers that take great care of him, Scott said. Thats rewarding to know that somebody is looking out for your kid, and thats how the teachers in our county feel about all the kids.
To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.