Mayor Muriel Bowser named a new D.C. Public Schools chancellor Nov. 22. to succeed Kaya Henderson.
Bowser chose someone from outside the DCPS reigning ranks to California by picking Antwan Wilson, a veteran and innovative educator who is superintendent of schools of the Oakland Unified School District.
The choice may have been from a distance, but it also marks a continuation of the sometimes controversial, but progressively effective school reform policies initiated by Michelle Rhee, who was brought to the District by Mayor Adrian Fenty. After an often combustible but far-reaching tenure, which saw major changes in the District, she left her position and was succeeded by Kaya Henderson, whose approach was more personable in tone but similar in policy.
During the nine years of leadership by Rhee and Henderson, Washington, D.C., with a student population of 48,000, has risen to become one of the most improved school districts in the nation, especially in math and reading scores.
It’s clear Bowser wants to continue that improvement as well as address better the needs of students from poorer neighborhoods, for whom a significant achievement gap in test scores still exists.
In her announcement of her selection, Bowser said, “Our school communities are stronger than they have ever been, and I know that together we will be able to work with Wilson to make progress in closing the District’s opportunity gap, while continuing to expand opportunities and provide a world-class education to students from every background and circumstance.”
The mayor described Wilson as a man who “championed improvements in teaching and learning, with a focus on improving social-emotional learning and special education practices. His efforts have led to increased high school graduation rates, decreased out-of-school discipline and a decade-high investment in teacher pay. A skilled educator and manager, Wilson was able to make these improvements, while also addressing budget deficits supporting educators and staff and improving families access to information about their schools.”
“In his 20-plus years in education Antwan Wilson has been a teacher, a principal an assistant superintendent and a superintendent, and at every level he has been successful,” Bowser said. “He is a role model for our students.”
Wilson, who is the same age as Bowser at 44, said of his selection: “My life has been dedicated to students and ensuring they have the resources and support they need to succeed in life. I am honored to join the District’s stellar education team and look forward to working with the community to build on the recent DCPS successes.”
While Wilson has had great success in making some improvements in the Oakland Unified School District in his short tenure of two years, he has also drawn some criticism in his attempts to overhaul struggling schools and special education and to include charter schools in that district’s enrollment. In the District of Columbia, charter schools make up around 50 percent of the schools.
Wilson was also Assistant Superintendent for Post-Secondary Readiness at the Denver Public Schools and served as a high school principal in Denver and middle school principal in Wichita, Kansas He is a graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University and is the Broad Academy.
Wilson will have the task of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Teachers Union, which expired in 2012 and has not been renewed.
Wilson will start work on Feb. 1, with a salary of $280,000. The District Council will hold three hearings on the nomination of Wilson Nov. 30, Dec. 5 and Dec. 8.