- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016


Generally speaking, public education authorities hear, see and speak no evil.

Generally, they do not speak ill of the parents who haven’t a clue about children’s welfare, though they are the first to hop in line and push for more money.

Generally, they do not see the (mis)behavior patterns once students are off school grounds or feel obligated to correct those (mis)behavior patterns. Often, their contractual obligations mandate a hands-off, do-not-touch approach.

And although they hear young people use language filthier than N.W.A.’s, they generally remain mum, thinking lye soap wouldn’t stand a chance.

Those are the facts of life in modern public schools, where praying is a sin, cuckoo nests are overrun with thugs and adult molesters, and the dividing lines between those who have their degrees are blurred by those who couldn’t care less.

Enter Antwan Wilson, a Gen Xer with classroom and administrative experience, who comes to Washington, D.C., as schools chief via Oakland. Mr. Wilson, a married father of three who still must pass muster with the D.C. Council if he is to replace Kaya Henderson, also comes with loads of praise.

Said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee: “Antwan’s time as a classroom teacher has shaped his vision for serving children, not just with academic excellence, but as whole human beings. Thanks to his leadership, Oakland students are more likely to graduate, [be] better prepared for college, and less likely to become part of the school-to-prison pipeline. This is a great move for D.C.”

If he truly serves children as “whole human beings,” seems Mr. Wilson, 44, is a game changer. Like an effective football coach, he stands on the sidelines and manages the clock, not simply bark plays. Like an efficient moral leader, he asks pertinent questions and speaks the truth. And like a bright light, he uncloaks the vagaries of education and government bureaucracies before night falls.

We can hope, too, that he knows an excuse from a reason because in this town — especially in this town — educrats and politicians confuse the two.

In this town, government has replaced parenting, and children are being weaned on handouts and suckled on excuses tethered to income, race/ethnicity and ZIP code. Theirs can be a sad state of affairs if public schooling remains the same.

Mr. Wilson has said his own kids will be attending public schools. That’s great, an important measure of his and his wife’s faith in the system.

Moreover, it will give the Wilson family a bird’s-eye view of the good, the bad and the ugly, including the bridge from elementary school to high school that is riddled with more potholes than D.C.’s streets, and the unions, which act for the pleasure of adults as if they were a strip joint.

Mr. Wilson should know this as well: If Mayor Muriel Bowser and the 13 members of the council have a fresh, innovative public idea, they’ve been keeping it to themselves. On the other hand, the city’s public charter schools continue to think outside traditional parameters (and hallelujah for that).

The thing is, D.C. education has been on a forward-thinking trajectory since Michelle Rhee and Miss Henderson took over in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Yet what happens at school board meetings are state secrets. And the board’s website looks as if elected members and all the staff fell down in 2014 and couldn’t get back up — another sad state of affairs, considering the fact that the board is supposed to be the mayor’s policy arm and the board’s eyes and ears are supposed to be parents and students.

In conclusion, the short story is Mr. Wilson doesn’t have to fill Miss Henderson’s shoes because he needs to make his own footprints. Surely, he’s done his homework and knows where D.C. was (at the bottom rung of the academic ladder), where D.C. public schooling stands now (movement matters) and how far D.C. has to go to be a competitive school district.

Here’s hoping Mr. Wilson raises the stakes on educators so they no longer can be deaf, blind and mute.

Children are indeed everyone’s future. Yet, through no fault of their own, they are treated as byproducts and afterthoughts.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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