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A Field of Hopefuls Seek D.C. Board of Education At-Large Seat

The candidates trying to nail down an at large seat on the D.C. school board include a former Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner, two Ward 7 residents who have worked in the District public schools, a Howard University scholar and a former board of education member representing the ward and a Ward 3 entrepreneur. They all have their own ideas about how to make D.C. schools better.

Jacque Patterson has been elected as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8 for a few terms and has served as the president of the ward’s Democrat club. Patterson, who works as an executive with the KIPP charter school organization, said he wants to make sure educational concerns of residents east of the Anacostia River are heard.

“Neighborhoods east of the river have the most school-age children and the least amount of resources,” he said. “I want to change that. Also, communities east of the river have two representatives on the board, for Ward 7 and Ward 8. If I am elected, I will be the third. That doesn’t mean I won’t be sensitive to the needs of residents west of the river, I will represent all Washingtonians. I just want to make sure that there is equity in all of the schools.”

Like Patterson, the rest of the candidates said in interviews with the Informer they would be an at-large board of education member for all residents of the District. Candidate Troy Murphy could not be reached for an Informer interview. However, some candidates would like to see a fairer distribution of resources for east of the river schools.

“There is a situation here in D.C. where you have unequitable resources,” Ravi Perry, a political scientist at Howard University, said. “Unlike other cities who are presently facing serious budget deficits D.C. has the resources. The money is here. There needs to be an effort on the part of the leadership on the board and the D.C. Council to have the will to do it. As a member of the board, I will work to see Ward 7 and Ward 8 schools get their fair share and work for budget transparency.”

Mysiki Valentine, who also resides in Ward 7, has taught in the District’s public and charter schools. He said the city hasn’t done enough to make sure young people are educated well enough to be successful in school and life.

“Right now, there are many students who don’t have laptops even though the school year is virtual at this point,” Valentine said. “Even before the pandemic, there was the digital divide.”

Valentine said as a board member, he will work to help students perform better on standardized tests, address such issues as hunger among students and articulate the concerns of teachers.

In 2008, Ward 7 voters elected Dorothy Douglas as their board of education representative. She served one four-year term. Douglas said she wants to return to the board to even the educational landscape in the city.

“Our children, particularly those in Wards 7 and 8 are being left behind,” she said. “Our kids are failing. Many of them cannot read and write at their grade level. What is needed in the school system are quality resources for our children, dedicated teachers who are concerned about them and new, up-to-date materials. As the at-large member, I will also engage the parents. The parents are the key to children being successful in school.”

Christopher Martin lives in Ward 3 and is self-employed. Martin said he entered the race to provide a better future for the city’s children, including his three young ones.

“I want to be the voice of equity on the board,” he said. “The entire school system needs to be revisited, not just certain wards. One of the problems is the lack of engagement and I will work on the board as a conduit to improve relations between it and the Office of the State Superintendent and the mayor. I want to create as many opportunities possible for our kids.”

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