- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson resigned Tuesday amid a scandal over receiving preferential treatment in the transfer of his daughter to a school outside her district in violation of a policy he had written himself.

His resignation, after only one year on the job, roils the leadership of D.C. Public Schools even as it lessens some of the political pressure on Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is seeking re-election to a second term in November after having hailed Mr. Wilson’s hire last year. A growing number of lawmakers and parents had called for his ouster.

“After listening to many families and stakeholders and officials, it became clear to me over the last several days that Chancellor Wilson would be unable to successfully lead D.C. schools [and has] not been able to regain the community’s trust,” Miss Bowser said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference to announce she had accepted his resignation.

The mayor appointed the District’s chief of elementary schools, Amanda Alexander, as interim chancellor while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent. Ms. Alexander has worked in D.C. schools since 1998.

“My aim is just to make sure that we finish the year strong,” Ms. Alexander said in a statement.

By Tuesday afternoon, the majority of the 13-member D.C. Council had called for Mr. Wilson’s resignation: Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Vincent Gray (Ward 7), Elissa Silverman (at-large) and Robert White (at-large).

At-large council member David Grosso, who chairs the Education Committee, issued a statement Tuesday saying he “welcomed” Mr. Wilson’s resignation because “it has become evident that no amount of effort on his part would restore their faith in him.”

According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Mr. Wilson asked his wife to speak with Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Niles about transferring their eldest daughter to Woodrow Wilson High School in the middle of the academic year. Ms. Niles complied, bypassing the District’s lottery system for transferring students outside their district and placing Mr. Wilson’s daughter at the front of Wilson High’s 100-person waiting list.

Ms. Niles resigned Friday.

Additionally, the OIG determined that the chancellor had not sought approval from the Board of Ethics for the transfer — a step required by his own policy whenever a D.C. government official requests a school transfer.

When asked by reporters how much money the city will owe Mr. Wilson of his $280,000 annual salary, the mayor did not specify.

“He has a contract with us that we will negotiate his exit,” Miss Bowser said during Tuesday’s press conference.

On Friday, Mr. Wilson withdrew his daughter from Wilson High and apologized in a letter to city residents, saying his “actions did not align with DCPS policy. In doing so, I failed the school system and the D.C. community.”

A spokesman for Mr. Gray told The Washington Times the scandal is a “lightning rod” issue, saying his office had received a large number of emails and calls from parents about the matter.

“I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated by finding out this news that the chancellor literally worked to break the rule that he just put in place to go around the lottery,” Ward 6 resident Sameena Kluck told The Times on Tuesday.

Ms. Kluck, who works as a strategic account executive in a private legal publishing company in the District, has two children in third and fifth grades at the Capitol Hill Montessori school. She said her eldest child applied to attend Washington Latin Charter School last year, only to end up No. 245 on a waiting list.

Mr. Wilson leaves the office of schools chancellor under a cloud, as did his predecessor.

Kaya Henderson stepped down as chancellor in September 2016, but that November she was censured for an ethics violation for soliciting a $100,000 contribution from a food vendor that was accused of overbilling D.C. schools for $19 million.

What’s more, an OIG report concluded that Ms. Henderson had allowed some parents — including two top Bowser aides — to flout rules for the school lottery, similar to Mr. Wilson’s violation. The Washington Post first reported about the inspector general’s conclusion in May.

• Julia Airey can be reached at jairey@washingtontimes.com.

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