The Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Board of Directors has named longtime executive vice president/COO, Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq., president and CEO of the largest social services agency in New England. Scott-Chandler succeeds John J. Drew, who retired on June 30 after 51 years with the antipoverty agency, 13 as president and CEO.
With the passing of legendary ABCD President/CEO, Robert Coard in 2009, Scott-Chandler's promotion to executive vice president and her later promotion to COO sparked a period of significant organizational growth, in which she was instrumental, including the expansion of the Head Start and Early Head Start services, workforce development, housing and other signature programs to where the organization’s annual budget now exceeds $200 million.
Scott-Chandler acknowledged the notable and longstanding ABCD leadership that preceded her: “I am both humbled and inspired by the faith that the ABCD board of directors has shown in passing the torch to me,” Scott-Chandler said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Bob Coard and to have worked so closely with John Drew for the last 13 years. We evolved and innovated our way through years of economic crises, social and political upheaval, and a global pandemic that devastated the communities we serve.”
Scott-Chandler joined the pioneering community action agency in 1999 as the director of its early education and care resource and referral program, Child Care Choices of Boston. She went on to become vice president of ABCD Head Start & Children’s Services, during which time she was appointed Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, before moving to the executive office. Prior to ABCD, she was a Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General.
“ABCD has a long history of fighting inequities. Uncommon determination, resilience, and innovation are in our DNA. Daunting challenges are nothing new, and we could not be better prepared to respond when called, develop inventive programming that equips and empowers, and help individuals and families lead better lives. Despite the disruptive change we’ve all experienced during the last two years, I see a great deal of opportunity to build on the incredible foundation and mission of this organization,” she said.
In keeping with her collaborative leadership style, Scott-Chandler is launching her new role with a series of conversations with board members, visits to ABCD’s many neighborhood centers and 31 Head Start early education centers, and outreach to stakeholders in the community. She is intent on gathering thoughts on the existing challenges, and importantly, hearing insights that will inform how the organization and its programs and services can be most responsive and effective in this new era.
Born and raised in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood, Scott-Chandler participated in the METCO program throughout her K-12 schooling. She has a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and a political science degree from Tufts University. She began her career in the political arena first as staff to the Dukakis for President Campaign, and then as a legislative aide to U.S. Congressman Sidney Yates in Washington DC. After law school, Scott-Chandler joined the Boston law firm of (then) Morrison, Mahoney and Miller before moving on to serve as Assistant Attorney General under Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.
For more than 20 years, Scott-Chandler has held statewide leadership positions in various capacities, including 10 years as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education & Care, serving four years as Chair. She was recently appointed to the state’s Special Commission on Poverty and is also a member of the Governor’s Black Advisory Commission, the Governor’s Community Economic Commission on Poverty and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). She is also a trustee of the Urban College of Boston (UCB), and serves on numerous boards and committees.
Although she is the first woman to sit in ABCD’s corner office, Scott-Chandler joins an esteemed group of women of color who co-founded, partnered with, or have governed the organization as board members. Through the decades, their inspiring leadership has been central to solidifying ABCD’s presence in the city and well beyond.
ABCD Board Chair Sean K. Daughtry cites Scott-Chandler’s exceptional experience and leadership style as strengths that will serve her well as she picks up the baton. “Sharon is driven by her concern for others and the desire to be a catalyst for change. As a leader, she brings an invaluable blend of vision, authenticity, deliberation and decisiveness, wisely gathering relevant information, maximizing the impact, and marshaling the resources to achieve goals. She is the perfect person to lead ABCD at this historic time,” he said.
ABCD was a startup in the fight against poverty in America, launching in 1962 with a $1.9 million grant from the Ford Foundation. When Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964, ABCD was designated as Boston’s official antipoverty agency. As a community action agency, it is served by a tripartite board comprised of representatives from the public sector, private sector, and neighborhoods. The organization offers some 75 programs and services to assist and uplift under-resourced people and families through proven and innovative programs including Head Start and Early Head Start, youth development and career training, food security, housing and homelessness prevention, ESOL and immigration services, fuel assistance and climate equity & impact, elder services, and more.
In addition, ABCD has been integral to the establishment of several institutions including the community health center movement; the Women, Infants & Children program; Roxbury Multi-Service Center; Urban College of Boston and many more. It has been notable for driving community participation, leadership building, and community engagement.
A Massachusetts-based nonprofit human services organization, ABCD provides disadvantaged residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support, and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, we serve more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For 60 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in each neighborhood we serve, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential.