While many of the District’s political junkies and activists will focus on the presidential election and the at-large race for the D.C. council, there is another at-large race that may generate the most heat.

Jacque Patterson2

Jacque Patterson is a candidate for the at-large Board of Education position. (Courtesy Photo)

At-Large D.C. State Board of Education member Mary Lord is running for re-election and is being challenged by three contenders. Jacque Patterson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 8B07 in Ward 8 and a former president of the Ward 8 Democrats, stands out as her biggest threat and the two have already exchanged barbs.

“Our kids need an advocate on the Board of Education and need a quality education regardless of what zip code they reside in,” Patterson told the AFRO. “Schools east of the Anacostia River such as Turner and Garfield Elementary Schools should be academically sound as Alice Deal Middle School and Murch Elementary in Ward 3.”

Patterson has inferred that Lord, who is a White resident of upper-income, majority White Ward 2, isn’t sensitive to the needs of Black students who reside in eastern Washington. Lord disputes that inference.

“I’ve been to the Players Lounge,” Lord told the AFRO in speaking about one of Ward 8’s most popular restaurants, “and I regularly attend Ward 8 Democrats meeting. I am running for re-election to maximize and accelerate the progress the D.C. school system has made in the past few years.”

The D.C. State Board of Education focuses on setting curriculum standards, graduation requirements, residency and attendance conditions, among other things. It doesn’t produce or approve a budget and has no role in school contracts.

Patterson disputes the claim that the board of education is “toothless.”

“It depends on the person and who holds the seat,” he said. “If the person who holds the seat is a strong advocate, then the seat has power.”

Lord, a board member for nine years, said her job is to see that every public school is a “quality school” regardless of where it is located and disagrees with Patterson’s views on students being educated outside of their neighborhoods. “It is essential to our kids that they get to go to school in other parts of the city,” Lord said. “That is how they learn about other people and other things.”

Lord, in her interview with the AFRO never mentioned Patterson’s name, but made clear who she was referencing. “He runs a charter school and I think it is a conflict of interest to do that and be on the board of education,” she said. Patterson, a founder of the Rocketship Rise Academy in Ward 8, responded strongly to Lord’s accusation of an ethical lapse.

“Whoever says that is making apples out of oranges,” he said. “The board serves as an advocate for the students and it has no fiduciary responsibilities. It is the council that approves the school system’s contracts and the Board of Education only sets policy.

While Lord and Patterson are hurling barbs at each other, another candidate, Tony Donaldson Jr., wants the race to be about the students. Ashley Carter is also in the race.

Donaldson is a 19-year-old Howard University student who served as the recording secretary of the Ward 1 Democrats. As a sophomore political science major, Donaldson said he would like to see STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) taught in the school instead of just STEM. He also would like a program to help students transition successfully from high school to higher education or to the workforce. “We need to make sure that our students have the skills to compete in the real world,” he said.

Other board seats to be settled on Nov. 8 include Wards 2, 4, 7, and 8.