January 23, 2015 at 4:14 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay man elected president of D.C. school board
Jack Jacobson, gay news, Washington Blade

Jack Jacobson is now the city’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official. (Photo courtesy of Jacobson)

Dupont Circle education advocate and former ANC commissioner Jack Jacobson won election on Wednesday as president of the D.C. State Board of Education, becoming the city’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official.

Jacobson won election in 2012 as the school board’s Ward 2 representative. On Wednesday, his colleagues on the nine-member board voted 6-2 to elect him president.

Mark Jones, the incumbent president against whom Jacobson ran, voted “present,” which is considered a form of abstention.

“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues, as well as the community, our students, teachers, principals and other stakeholders, to ensure that our education system is exemplary and that all students have the opportunity to receive an excellent education,” Jacobson said in a statement.

“I also look forward to strengthening the relationship between the State Board and the State Superintendent of Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the Chancellor, the Public Charter School Board, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Education, and all of our school leaders,” he said.

Jacobson told the Blade he believes Jones did an excellent job as president of the board and he looks forward to working with Jones, who will remain on the board as its elected Ward 5 representative.

“Mark has done some really great things for the board but he’s just incredibly busy in his personal and business life,” Jacobson said. “And I have the time to dedicate to being president, which includes a lot of additional meetings and behind-the-scenes work and coordination with agencies and colleagues,” he said.

“I think board members recognized that and Mark himself recognized it, which is why he didn’t do a hard push for re-election as president — and he’s still going to be there for me as I grow into the role,” Jacobson said.

Jones declined to comment when contacted by the Blade.

A biography posted on the board’s website says Jones is the owner and president of M. Jones Companies, which specializes in telecommunications and financial consulting. Jacobson’s biography says he works as a legislative analyst for a D.C.-based international law firm.

Under the board’s rules, members vote at the start of each year on who among them will be chosen to serve as president and vice president. Members voted on Wednesday to elect Ward 7 representative Karen Williams as vice president.

At the urging of former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, the City Council voted in 2007 to remove from the board its former authority to appoint the D.C. school system’s top leadership, including the school superintendent and chancellor. The legislation adopted by the Council and signed by Fenty at that time transferred authority to operate the school system to the Office of the Mayor.

The legislation created the current State Board of Education, which is charged with advising the superintendent on school issues while being authorized to approve academic standards, graduation requirements and other school-related policies.

With longtime gay D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) having left office on Jan. 2, the City Council for the first time since 1997 is without an openly gay member.

More than a dozen openly gay or lesbian people are believed to have been elected or re-elected in November to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions throughout the city, which serve as advisory bodies on such issues as trash pick-up, liquor licensing and zoning.

But Jacobson now remains as the only out gay person elected to an office representing a full city ward as well as a city-wide constituency in his new role as president of the D.C. State Board of Education.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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