A number of D.C. residents have made it clear they didn’t like the process D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser used to select the next chancellor of the District of Columbia Public School System. On Dec. 5, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), the chairman of the Committee on Education, held a public roundtable at the Dorothy I. Height Benning Library to get residents’ feedback on D.C. School Chancellor appointee Antwan Wilson from the audience of 50 people.
Antwan Wilson is set to be next D.C. chancellor. (Courtesy Photo)
“There was a review panel of teachers, students, and community leaders that were chosen as mandated by the law,” said Tiffany L. Brown, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 7B02 in Ward 7 and an education advocate.
The panel Brown referenced is the D.C. Rising Committee that included Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) president Elizabeth Davis, and was co-chaired by FedEx executive Gina Adams and Trinity Washington University president Patricia McGuire. Brown said Bowser ignored the law by selecting Wilson, the superintendent for the Oakland Unified School District, without consulting the teachers’ union.
“The WTU is supposed to make a recommendation to the mayor on the new chancellor and the mayor is supposed to give that recommendation great weight in the final selection decision,” Brown said. “Chairman Grosso, we need you to call out this oversight.”
Brown didn’t question Wilson’s credentials, saying “he at least had experience working in schools and the last two chancellors didn’t.”
D.C. Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Niles led three public sessions earlier this year on what residents wanted in a new chancellor. Kaya Henderson stepped down as chancellor on Oct. 1 after holding the position since November 2010, and the school system is presently being managed by interim school chancellor John Davis. Davis reportedly sought to become chancellor permanently.
Wilson lead the Oakland school system for two years and before that, worked a number of years for Denver’s public school system as a top lieutenant. He is a graduate of The Broad Academy, an institution designed to train public school leaders at the executive level.
Wilson was introduced to District residents by Bowser on Nov. 22 at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast. He must be confirmed by the D.C. Council. Grosso held a formal committee hearing on his approval on Dec. 8.
Grosso also held a public roundtable on Wilson at the Brookland Middle School in Ward 5 on Nov. 30.
Wilson is credited with trying to expand the educational opportunities of disadvantaged children in Oakland, but his critics contend he favors charter schools over public schools. “He should be the chancellor for the charter school system not the public schools,” said Eboni-Rose Thompson, chairman of the Ward 7 Education Council. “What we need is a champion for DCPS but he has consistently and continuously been pro-charter schools.”
Davis said the mayor didn’t follow the law but if Wilson is confirmed, “the WTU will work with him enthusiastically.”
“He has the qualifications for the job,” she said.
While there was a great deal of focus on the chancellor selection process, some residents chose to focus on the tasks Wilson will face should he get the job.
“There is an achievement gap between students who live east of the River and students who live in the rest of the city,” Tina Fletcher, an advisory neighborhood commissioner representing district 8A06 in Ward 8, said. “We need a chancellor who understands that our kids face non-academic challenges such as poverty and hunger. When students in Wards 7 and 8 perform better academically, the whole city will perform better.”
Wilson, who was in the audience but didn’t testify, was seen nodding his head at Fletcher’s comment, and so did Grosso.