Last Friday the astonishing news broke that DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson skirted the city’s public school lottery to have one of his children enrolled at Woodrow Wilson High School where there is a wait list. In transferring his daughter in this manner away from the Duke Ellington School for the Arts and bypassing Dunbar, his neighborhood high school, Mr. Wilson violated the new policy that prevents D.C. Chancellors from making discretionary placements.
The individual responsible for creating and approving this policy was Chancellor Wilson.
In his apology for his action, which the Mayor forced him to do and that has now been removed from the DCPS website and Twitter, Mr Wilson stated that “my decision was wrong and I take full responsibility for my mistake.” But in reality, he has taken no responsibility at all for his behavior, instead throwing Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles so far under the bus that Mayor Bowser forced her to resign her position. Apparently, as soon as Mr. Wilson’s action was discovered, he explained that he had his wife work with Ms. Niles to make the change. The Mayor then dismissed Ms. Niles because she should have known it was against the rules. The student is no longer attending Wilson.
All of this is so sad. Ms. Bowser has explained on numerous occasions over the years that when she approached Ms. Niles about becoming her Deputy Mayor for Education she was turned down. The Mayor has bragged that it took four requests before Ms. Niles changed her mind. The reality is that Ms. Niles should have stayed at E.L. Haynes PCS, the high performing charter that she founded, and not had her fine reputation and integrity caught up with someone who needs an Office of Integrity to tell him that students who cannot read, write, or perform basic math should not graduate from high school.
The entire incident now calls into question the turning over of the traditional public schools to Mayoral control. Michelle Rhee was fortunate that she resigned because citizens were ready to run her mean-spirited persona out of town. Kaya Henderson was the reform-minded Rhee with a pleasant demeanor, and she was extremely well respected until it was determined that it was under her reign that there were discretionary placements for politically well-positioned friends which led to the development of the current policy Mr. Wilson ignored. It was also while she was in office that high school students received diplomas who rarely came to class. Now we have the Wilson mess.
Alternatively, pundits are pointing to the academic progress that students have made as a plea not to go back to the old days when the Board of Education was running the show. However, and it really pains me to say this, I’m starting to have doubts about the validity of these results.
If the Mayor want to keep her schools she better move fast. Mr. Wilson and anyone associated with the recent scandals need to go as quickly as possible. Then Ms. Bowser needs to bring in someone who has a proven track record who the public can trust. Someone like Jennie Niles.