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Independent D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson says schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson should resign or be fired.
“If you cheat, you’re fired. If you lie, you’re fired. Period,” Patterson said in an interview Saturday with the City Paper. “He needs to be fired. You can’t be the head of the school system and cheat. There are school children out there for God sakes.”
Patterson’s strong stand comes in the wake of revelations—first reported by NBC4—that Wilson allowed his own daughter to be reassigned to a different high school, bypassing established school policy that Wilson himself authored after a previous school boundary scandal involving former Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
Patterson—a former D.C. Council member who helped lead reforms of the police department over a decade ago—is the first major public official to call for Wilson to step down.
Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles resigned Friday for her role in approving the improper student transfer. Mayor Muriel Bowser asked for Niles’ resignation after the mayor learned of an Inspector General probe of the Chancellor’s transfer and confronted Niles.
Bowser stopped short of firing Chancellor Wilson, ordering him instead to write an apology to school staff members and parents.
Wilson’s daughter, a sophomore this year at Duke Ellington School, was transferred to Wilson High School after she had difficulty fitting into her first school. Mayor Bowser said the daughter could not remain at Wilson, and it is unclear where she may enroll next. Her in-boundary school is Dunbar High.
Chancellor Wilson is just beginning the second year of a two-year contract that pays a base salary of $280,000 and provides bonuses of up to $28,000 a year, among other business and annual leave perks. Wilson’s personal manipulation of his child’s enrollment is another blow to an already troubled school system dealing with a major scandal over student absenteeism, fake grading, and graduation rates.
“This whole thing, that our city leaders are opting out of our neighborhood schools shows that they don’t believe they are good enough to serve all students,” Ward 6 school board representative Joe Weedon told The Washington Post, “or they don’t have the resources to serve all students.”
Patterson welcomed Weedon’s remarks and said she expects the public is looking for an even stronger reaction from the D.C. Council and education committee chairman David Grosso to apparent cheating by the chancellor. She questioned whether “you can keep a cheater through the second year” of his contract.
Grosso issued a statement welcoming Nile’s resignation and calling the student transfer “a huge mistake.” But Grosso did not take a stand on any repercussions for Wilson.
The Washington Post editorial page, normally a strong supporter of Mayor Bowser and school leaders, declared, “Mr. Wilson’s flouting of policy smacks of elitism and self-dealing. That he could be so tone deaf to the obvious political and educational sensibilities so soon after scandal erupted over an identical practice is astonishing.”
Patterson and others also question Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision to refer Wilson’s actions to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. Although legally independent, BEGA already is swimming in its own controversy involving the abrupt dismissal of its Open Government director Traci Hughes. BEGA chairman Tameka Collier, appointed by the mayor, acknowledged in public testimony before the D.C. Council that she had been in frequent contact with the mayor’s legal counsel over actions and rulings made by Hughes.
“How is BEGA supposed to take an independent look at the Chancellor?,” one city official asked.