At a press conference held just after 5 p.m. late Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she had accepted the resignation of Chancellor Antwan Wilson. Wilson had served as Chancellor for a little more than a year before revelations emerged last Friday that he had circumvented a policy of his own making prohibiting District Officials from getting around the school lottery process.
Bowser said that as part of Wilson’s contract with the District a severance package will be negotiated.
Aim to Finish School Year Strong
Bowser announced that Amanda Alexander, DCPS Chief of the Office of Elementary Schools, would serve as interim chancellor until the position is filled. Alexander started her career as a kindergarten teacher with DCPS and served as Deputy Chief of Schools in 2013 under Chancellor Kaya Henderson, focusing on the recruitment, development and supervision of the K-12 instructional superintendent team.
Alexander said that she was pleased to serve as the Interim Chancellor of DCPS. “My aim is really just to make sure that we finish the school year strong,” she said in her extremely brief remarks.
“We’ve got four months of school left, and I want to make sure that everyday counts for our students, parents and teachers.”
Both Bowser and Alexander were asked how they plan to rebuild trust with the community after this incident. Alexander said she planned to meet with the community and to reconnect with stakeholders. She added that DCPS is planning a series of engagement sessions, though these have not yet been scheduled.
In her response to the same question, Bowser said “I think what parents want me to do is to let them know when something bad happens.”
“And I have to be honest about it, fix it, and move forward —and that’s what we’ve done here.”
Wilson faced an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. Last Friday, Bowser asked him to issue an apology letter acknowledging that he had not followed DCPS policy in requesting a transfer for his oldest child and saying that he took full responsibility for his actions.
Not a Good Fit
In September, Wilson had sought assistance to transfer his daughter from Duke Ellington School for the Arts to Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest, rather than to the family’s in-bounds high school. Wilson High School has a lengthy waiting list.
Wilson said that after he and his spouse had decided that Ellington was not a good fit for their daughter, he consulted with Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles on how to proceed. He said that Niles suggested he allow her to handle it. Wilson said he had removed himself from the discussions, allowing his spouse to take the lead.
Less than a year ago, Wilson signed a policy prohibiting out of bounds transfers outside the lottery process for District officials, mandating that requests be reviewed by the District Board of Ethics –and the Chancellor. Three months later, he appears to have violated the policy, acknowledging that he “got it wrong” in an interview with WAMU’s Martin Austermuhle.
Mayor Muriel Bowser accepted Niles’s resignation Friday, but seemed to hope Wilson could weather this storm which came at a time when DCPS has been confronted with revelations that scores of students graduated despite absences and unmet standards.
‘Mayoral Control and Council Oversight’
Asked if the District Council would be involved in the selection process for the next DCPS Chancellor, Bowser said that councilmembers were very involved in the prior search when multiple public hearings were held, and that could be expected to continue.
“The thing about our system, people often say it is mayoral control –but it is mayoral control and council oversight. So we are partners in how we lead our schools, and I welcome the input of our council,” Bowser said, adding that she has met with District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Chair of the District Council Committee on Education David Grosso (I-At Large) about how to move forward.
A total of eight Councilmembers had called for Wilson’s resignation as of the press conference, including Charles Allen (Ward 6-D). Allen said he made the decision after speaking with Wilson over the telephone and hearing from Ward 6 parents.
“While I believe that Chancellor Wilson had demonstrated skill in leading the system, I also believe that he has lost — and will be unable to regain — the trust of so many parents that is vital to the success of DC Public Schools. Without that public trust, any Chancellor will be unable to advance a vision.”
Grosso and the District Council Committee for Education will hold a hearing on DCPS with testimony from public witnesses beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday Feb. 21, in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW).