Saturday was not a good day regarding the management of the traditional school system in the nation’s capital that educates 48,144 children. First, a report by D.C.’s Inspector General looking into the preferential placement of former Chancellor Antwan Wilson’s daughter found that no one involved in this mess has taken responsibility for moving his child away from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and enrolling her in Wilson High School; skirting the My School DC Lottery and obtaining admission notwithstanding a wait list of over 600 students. Asked about the findings of the review, Mayor Muriel Bowser again rejected that she knew anything about the actions of the officials she oversaw despite the fact that she was apparently told about the relocation by the Chancellor and Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles. Mr. Wilson has stated on multiple occasions that he referred the issue of his child’s unhappiness at attending Duke Ellington to his wife. Ms. Niles claims that she had delegated the matter to Jane Spence, the Deputy Chief of Secondary Schools.
According to the Washington Post story appearing over the weekend by Fenit Nirappil and Perry Stein, “the report portrays a scenario in which the two top school officials appeared to understand the political hazards of the transfer. It concluded the two [Mr. Wilson and Ms. Niles] made some efforts to avoid giving the chancellor’s daughter preferential treatment, but ultimately their actions led to rules being bypassed.”
Mr. Wilson, Ms. Niles, and Ms. Spence all have lost their positions. The Mayor, of course, continues in hers.
Next, the Post’s Perry Stein reports that of the 164 pupils that were last May accused of residency fraud in attending Duke Ellington, 95 of these cases have been dismissed. The original claim involved approximately 30 percent of the student body. Parents at the school immediately challenged this finding by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and took the charge to court. The legal proceedings forced OSSE to admit that it mishandled documentation of student D.C. residency at Ellington on two separate occasions over two weeks. It appears that 69 of the 531 pupils that attend the school still have questions around whether they live in D.C.
The whole matter is embarrassing. I understand that in numerous instances it is difficult to ascertain the location of student homes. Many may not have permanent addresses. But if you have been involved in D.C. schools for more than five minutes you understand that there are strict requirements around admission.
Both of these controversies severely dilute confidence that there is competency in the administration of this city’s schools. Many are now calling for a weakening of Mayoral control. Please add me to the list.