DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson Resigns After Bypassing School Lottery System

Wilson was able to get his daughter into a new high school without going through the competitive lottery system

What to Know

  • The D.C. schools chancellor has resigned after he got special treatment for his daughter, bypassing the school lottery system.
  • The deputy mayor for education resigned Friday after she allowed the chancellor to bypass the required system.
  • The two resignations come amid a time of crisis for DCPS. Two federal agencies are investigating inflated graduation rates.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson has resigned after he bypassed the highly competitive public school lottery system to get his daughter a coveted seat at a top high school. 

Seven D.C. council members called for Wilson's resignation, but he initially refused.

"My family was in a crisis," Wilson told News4 Monday evening. "I was struggling."

He said Monday that he would not step down. 

"I don't want a pass," he said. "What I want to do is lead the system."

But parents' and lawmakers' calls for Wilson's resignation grew too strong, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. 

"It became very clear to me over the last several days that Chancellor Wilson would be unable to successfully lead the schools, having not been able to regain the community's trust," she said at a news conference Tuesday evening. 

"There are too many tough decisions in the coming months to have any distractions, and we want to make very clear to parents and students that we are going to support them in any way possible," the mayor continued. 

Wilson is on administrative leave pending the completion of the terms of his exit. He did not immediately respond to inquiries. 

Dr. Amanda Alexander, head of the DCPS Office of Elementary Schools, was named interim chancellor. Alexander has degrees from Howard University and American University, started her teaching career in D.C. kindergarten classrooms and has served as principal of two D.C. schools, Bunker Hill Elementary School and Ross Elementary School.

"I plan to connect with members of the community, our stakeholders, to rebuild that trust," she said.

Wilson declined to comment on his resignation when News4's Shomari Stone knocked on his door Tuesday evening.

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles resigned Friday after she allowed Wilson to bypass the lottery, in direct violation of a mayoral order issued last year, as News4 was first to report.

In a statement issued earlier Tuesday, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie said Wilson violated a policy in his contract that kept current and former public officials from seeking discretionary transfers. 

"He breached the public trust and must resign," McDuffie said. 

Six other D.C. Council members also said Wilson should be ousted: Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Vincent Gray, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau and Robert White. 

At-large Council member White was the first to ask Wilson to step down, on Saturday. White wrote on Twitter that he had “lost confidence in our DC Public Schools leadership" and he has witnessed "no accountability within DCPS central office."

Niles' and Wilson's departures comes amid a time of crisis for DCPS. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General are investigating the school system following revelations of inflated graduation rates.

Wilson received a base salary of $280,000, plus a $14,000 signing bonus and $25,000 in moving expenses, public records show.

Whether Wilson's departure is officially considered to be "for cause" will determine whether or not he receives three months' severance pay, which is $70,000. His contract says, "A termination would be 'for cause' if an employee is indicted for or convicted of any criminal offense, commits on duty conduct that he reasonably knows is a violation of law or regulation; [or] uses public office for private gain," among other offenses.

If Wilson were found to have been fired without cause, he would receive $140,000.

Bowser said on Friday that she stood by the decision to ask Niles, not Wilson, to resign.

"I recognize that the chancellor had what he thought was an untenable family situation, and he was trying to resolve it and trying to resolve it by asking his supervisor what to do," she said.

Niles and Wilson have both been referred to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and ethics board for separate investigations.

Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson was also found to have violated the school lottery system.

The Office of the Inspector General found seven instances in which Henderson "improperly used her discretion" to transfer students outside of school district boundaries, the News4 I-Team reported.

Wilson became chancellor a little more than a year ago, on Feb. 1, 2017. He was selected, in part, for his success in raising achievement scores as superintendent of Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, California.

"As superintendent [in Oakland], he has focused on managing and improving a complex organization, championing important messages to improve teaching and learning, increasing high school graduation rates and improving social and emotional learning in special education processes," Bowser said as she introduced him.

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