Markus Batchelor

Markus Batchelor, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8, is running for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education. (Courtesy Photo)

Markus Batchelor, one of the District’s youngest political advisory neighborhood commissioners, is a candidate for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education. Batchelor, 23, announced his candidacy on April 9 at a veterans’ center in Ward 8.

He told a gathering of about 30 people that he is positive about the future of education in his ward.”I believe in the potential of our schools,” he said. “I believe in the potential of our parents and I believe in the potential of our students. I believe that we can unlock our potential in this ward.”

Batchelor will attempt to unseat Ward 8 State Board of Education member Tierra Jolly, who won a special election on July 15, 2014, when Trayon White resigned to take a fulltime job with the District government.

Batchelor is a first-time advisory neighborhood commissioner representing single-member district 8C04 but has been active in District politics as an activist for several years. He is a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School and has attended George Washington University. Batchelor is active in the D.C. Young Democrats and worked on Nate Bennett-Fleming’s campaign for the D.C. Council at-large Democratic seat in 2014.

Batchelor first became known to District residents as a youth mayor for the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute in 2009. The institute’s first youth mayor, Kemry Hughes, said he saw something special in Batchelor.  “When I first saw him I noticed that he stood tall like a statesman,” Hughes said. “While many young men his age are interested in sports, Markus focused on civic participation. I knew then that Markus was one of these young people who would become part of the city’s future leadership.”

In July 2013, Batchelor earned citywide notice when the Rev. Joyce Scott resigned the Ward 8 Democrats presidency and he assumed her duties as interim president with only three months left in the term. The Ward 8 Democrats has a reputation of being a club with passionate members and Batchelor earned praise from longtime members, such as former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, for handling the responsibilities that were thrust upon him.

When newly elected Ward 8 President Natalie Williams, during the latter months of 2013, sought to deny Batchelor a seat on the organization’s executive committee because he was never elected president, he protested her decision. Despite Williams’s literal interpretation of the bylaws, Batchelor won and was eventually seated on the executive committee.

When Batchelor decided to run for the 8C04 commission seat in 2014, he challenged Derrick Colbert, the incumbent commissioner with family ties to former D.C. Mayor and Councilmember Marion Barry. He defeated Colbert with 54.4 percent of the vote in the November 2014 general election.

Batchelor is facing an uphill battle to defeat Jolly. Jolly declared for re-election on March 4 with the support of D.C. councilmembers LaRuby May (D-Ward 8); David Grosso (I-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Education; and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). Jolly, a social studies teacher at Bishop McNamara in Prince George’s County, said she wants to make sure Ward 8 students have the same resources as Ward 3 students, who attend school in the wealthiest area of the District.

White, candidate for the Ward 8 D.C. Council position on June 14, 2016, has endorsed Batchelor.

While Jolly has the advantages of an incumbent in terms of a potent fundraising apparatus, Batchelor is not deterred. “I realize that I am running against a juggernaut,” he said. “It is a David versus Goliath but if you remember, David won that battle and we will win this one too.”

Batchelor told his supporters that tackling such issues as poverty and violence are critical in elevating the academic status of the ward’s schools. He said the Ward 8 board of education representative must engage their colleagues, the school system bureaucracy, and the educational establishment.

Batchelor told the AFRO that closing low performing schools isn’t necessarily the answer to helping young people get a good, quality education, and took issue with Jolly on funding the ward’s schools. “Low performing schools are crying for more resources and I will see that we get every dollar we deserve,” he said. “Ward 8 students should be getting our unfair share because we need more resources than students in Ward 3.”