For scandal-beset D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, the writing may already be on the chalkboard.
As of Tuesday morning, a majority of the 13-member D.C. Council has come out in support of Wilson’s resignation, after he used his position to get a special school transfer for his eldest daughter in the middle of the current school year, without going through the usual, uncertainty-filled lottery process like other parents must. That tally sets up a potential battle in early 2019 over the renewal of Wilson’s contract, through which he receives a salary of $280,000.
That’s if Wilson survives the public-relations crisis in which he’s embroiled. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and Education Committee Chair David Grosso—an at-large councilmember—met this morning to discuss the situation, FOX5 and WAMU report. In a statement to those outlets, the mayor’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio, said the three pols “discuss[ed] the feedback they have received and the path forward to ensure progress continues at DCPS.” “We are all focused on what is in the best interest of the students,” Falcicchio added.
Following calls over the holiday weekend for Wilson to leave the school system by Councilmembers Robert White, Mary Cheh, Vince Gray, Charles Allen, and Elissa Silverman, Ward 1’s Brianne Nadeau and Ward 5’s Kenyan McDuffie joined the chorus on Tuesday morning. They all have cited Wilson’s breach of public trust—and parents’ corresponding lack of confidence in him to lead DCPS—as a major reason for their positions. The D.C. Inspector General and the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability are reviewing Wilson’s actions and those of ex-Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles, who coordinated his child’s school transfer and resigned on Friday.
A representative of the Inspector General’s office declined to comment on its review, saying the matter is ongoing.
Also on Tuesday morning, two additional councilmembers said they wouldn’t formally ask Wilson to step down, but didn’t come to his defense. At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds said she “expect[s]” the chancellor to resign, and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White said on Facebook he wouldn’t “be able to stand by [him] unfortunately.”
“I think he is a great man and have a great vision for the residents I represent,” wrote White, who represents D.C.’s poorest ward. “I cannot decide his future and won’t write a resignation request but I really wish this situation with the Chancellor wasn’t so. It is my opinion that DC Public Schools no longer need to be under Mayoral Control but should have an elected body in which the people have more influence.” (White served on the state school board.)
Wilson didn’t do his due diligence “to ensure the rules were followed,” the Ward 8 councilmember tells City Paper.
Meanwhile, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd—a reliable Bowser ally—said in a statement he is “extremely disappointed” by Wilson’s violation of DCPS policy. Todd stopped short of calling for Wilson’s resignation, but said “a level playing field” is needed: “We can ask many questions, but the main point remains the same—it was wrong.”
It’s unclear whether Wilson will step down, or whether Bowser, who is up for re-election as mayor this year, will effectively fire him. Wilson heads DCPS at a time of crisis, with one-third of graduates in 2017 not having met the requirements for graduation but getting promoted by administrators anyway, according to a recent independent audit. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Education are also investigating DCPS’ practices, policies, and culture.
The chancellor struck a regretful tone in interviews on Monday. “I made the wrong decision,” he told FOX5, without answering questions about whether he should or would resign. To the Post, he explained: “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting any pressure on anyone. …I had tunnel vision. I was focusing on the District and facing a great deal of pressure at home with what was happening with our daughter.” Last Friday, he emailed out a letter of apology.
Wilson joined DCPS last February. In the fall, he observed to City Paper that parents “obsess” over school choice.
Late on Tuesday morning, Bowser said she did not have any announcements about Wilson’s future in the District. “We all agree that we have very complicated issues to review, and our focus of course has to be on the children of our system,” she told reporters. “I don’t have anything to report to you at this time.” She did not take any questions.