WASHINGTON — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has officially named her pick for the District’s next schools chancellor. Antwan Wilson is currently schools superintendent of Oakland, California.
During a news conference Tuesday at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast D.C., Wilson called the job a “tremendous opportunity to make a difference among the young people here and have the greatest impact on young people across the country.”
Bowser nominated Wilson after a months-long search that started when Kaya Henderson announced in June that she would be stepping down. John Davis has served as interim chancellor since Oct. 1.
Wilson, Bowser said, would be a good fit for D.C., where the schools have been rated among the nation’s most improved. As superintendent, Wilson has managed improvement of a complex organization, championed messages for improving teaching, increased graduation rates, and improved social and emotional learning and special education practices, Bowser said.
“He’s done this while correcting instructional practices in Oakland and negotiating increased teacher pay and per-pupil student funding,” she said.
Wilson, who has led the Oakland Unified School District since 2014, wants each student to be ready to start college and move toward a career, whether that is through “traditional institutions or through their employer or military service.”
“I believe wholeheartedly in academic, social learning,” Wilson said. “I believe it is extremely important to make sure that schools are places that educate young people and prepare them for success — not just academic success but success as people. ”
Having grown up with a single parent, Wilson said, “I understand the importance of a system working.”
Wilson previously worked for six years as an assistant superintendent in Denver Public Schools, where he oversaw improvements in graduation rates, a reduction in drop-out rates and increases in students entering college. He has also held various education positions in Kansas, Nebraska and North Carolina.
In a resignation letter to his Oakland staff, Wilson said he plans to leave his current role in February.
Wilson has faced criticism over his implementation of charter schools in Oakland. When asked about the role of charters in D.C., he said he didn’t see it as a competition between charter schools and public schools. “In my last two districts, I’ve taken pride in working on insuring families have access to quality schools, regardless of government structure,” he said.
When Wilson was asked about controversy in the District over how teachers are evaluated, with student performance factoring into a teacher’s effectiveness rating, he said that “educators throughout the system appreciate evaluation, observation and feedback.”
Pressed on whether he favored using student grades or performance in evaluating teachers, Wilson said, “I look forward to having that conversation internally, and then we’ll make a decision from there.”
He said his own three children will attend D.C. public schools.
Wilson, whose appointment is subject to approval by the D.C. Council, has been offered a two-year contract at a salary of $280,000 a year. Like his predecessors, he’ll also be offered a performance-based bonus of up to 10 percent of his salary.
When Wilson was asked if a two-year contract allowed him enough time to learn how the D.C. schools operate and then prioritize and implement changes, Bowser interjected, saying that his predecessor, Kaya Henderson, had an annual contract. She also said that two-year contracts are standard in many school districts, and that many other urban school districts offer annual contracts to school superintendents.
The mayor then added, “I expect that we’re going to have Antwan a long time.”
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.