Darrell Gaston, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member District 8B04, wants to replace Markus Batchelor as the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education.
In 2012, Gaston unsuccessfully ran against the late Marion S. Barry Jr. in the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 council seat. Since 2013, he has managed his nonprofit, DC Young Emerging Leaders, as president and CEO.
Board of Education seats are non-partisan therefore Gaston’s name will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. He looks to fill the impending vacancy left by Batchelor, who is running as an independent for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council in 2020.
Gaston received his high school diploma from the Friendship Public Charter School – Collegiate Academy and obtained his bachelor’s degree from Coppin State University and a juris doctorate from the Howard University School of Law. He served as a commissioner from 2009-2015 and was reelected to that office in 2018.
Regarding his candidacy, Gaston said the District’s public school system has failed Ward 8 schools in terms of equity, transparency, accountability and equality and he will work to fix those issues as a board member.
“Ward 8 schools should have the same resources and opportunities that schools west of the Anacostia River have,” Gaston said. “There needs to be a focus on schools, community partners and parents in the ward so that our students can be successful and on the board of education I will work toward achieving that.”
Gaston favors a moratorium on new public and charter schools in Ward 8.
“Charter schools are popping up in Ward 8 and they aren’t serving the best interest of the students,” he said.
Additionally, he wants the District’s deputy mayor of education to come up with a comprehensive plan that would improve students’ academic performance, particularly in Ward 8.
On the board, Gaston said school modernization will be a priority.
“As a commissioner earlier this decade, I am proud to have played a key role in the modernization of Stanton, Turner and Moten elementary schools,” he said. “Every school should be modernized. I believe that if necessary, the city should take on a debt to modernize the schools.”
Cole Running for Ward 8 Council Seat
Christopher Cole has mounted an independent campaign for the Ward 8 council seat and will focus on improving education opportunities and employment prospects for his neighbors if elected next year.
“My slogan is simple — ‘Solutions Start with Self,’” Cole said. “Community. Culture. Commitment. I am working to promote positive change and collaboration between residents, businesses and government. I want to work to bridge gaps that create balance and be the change that will bring Ward 8 together.”
A native Washingtonian, Cole works as the human resources manager for A. Wash & Associates and possesses certification as a paralegal. A returning citizen, Cole has been an advocate for the Fair Criminal Screening Amendment Act of 2014, or the “Ban the Box” legislation, that would prohibit employers from screening an applicant’s criminal background.
Cole founded the Young Male Achiever Program in partnership with the FH Faunteroy Community Enrichment Center and volunteered with the Executive Office of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Department under the administration of Anthony Williams. He also has worked with the D.C. Department of Employment Services with its Project Empowerment Program that focuses on helping adults living in neighborhoods with high unemployment rates to obtain and keep jobs.
Running as an independent, Cole would be on the Nov. 3, 2020, general election ballot challenging the Democratic — and possibly Republican — nominee for the Ward 8 seat. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) hasn’t announced his re-election bid but many political observers expect him to run again.
Cole said he supports more vocational education programs in Ward 8 schools.
“Not everybody wants to go to college,” he said. “That’s where vocational education and teaching trades come in. For example, electricians can make from $17 to $41 an hour. You can make a good living and raise a family well as an electrician or any other trade.”
Cole said the District government should actively try to get unemployed residents working, saying the Department of Employment Services should expand its programs to “help people find jobs and support companies that hire them.”