Number of DC Council members to call for school chief Wilson’s resignation grows

Incoming Washington schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson speaks at a news conference Tuesday at D.C.'s Eastern High School. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Two more members of the D.C. Council have called for the leader of the public school system to resign, bringing the total to seven — a majority.

Kenyan McDuffie, D-Ward 5, and Brianne Nadeau, D-Ward 1, on Tuesday called for Chancellor Antwan Wilson to resign after Wilson announced Friday that he had violated school-system policy — a policy he developed — by circumventing the school-lottery system in order to transfer his child to a different high school.

Meanwhile, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said he met Tuesday morning with Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Education Committee chairman David Grosso, an at-large independent, to discuss the matter.

“We discussed all options,” Mendelson said; “there was not a decision that was made.”

“The situation is indefensible, and that’s the dilemma,” he said. “We’ve been moving forward with improvements in the school system, we thought, and this is a real setback.”

Bowser added, “We all agree that we have very complicated issues to review.”

‘Deeply disappointing’

In a statement Tuesday, Nadeau described Wilson as someone “who truly listens, who is responsive to parent concerns and has worked with me in partnership to move forward on long-standing issues” in the school system. She also praised his “openness and spirit of collaboration.”

But that just made Wilson’s actions more “deeply disappointing,” she added. She said she’s heard responses on both sides from parents, and believes Wilson’s “apology is genuine. But in matters like these, we must hold our officials to a higher standard.” She concluded that “too much damage has been done to the public trust,” citing “how stressful and challenging the school lottery can be, and how important school placement is for each child.”

McDuffie said in his statement that he had spoken with Wilson Monday and “appreciated his willingness to speak candidly with me.” He said that he understood Wilson’s desire to get his child into the best possible school, but that “most parents are not afforded the privilege of receiving a discretionary transfer for their child, even under the most compelling circumstances. So while I sympathize with Mr. Wilson and his family, I also sympathize with the thousands of parents who abide by the rules …”

He added, “If prior to this controversy Antwan Wilson was the person to lead DCPS into the future, it is now clear that he no longer maintains the public confidence needed to do so.”

At-large Councilmember Robert White was the first to call for Wilson’s resignation, doing so on Saturday, the day after Wilson announced his actions and apologized for them. Vincent Gray, D-Ward 7; Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3; Elissa Silverman, I-At Large, and Charles Allen, D-Ward 6, have also called for Wilson to go.

Jennifer Niles resigned as deputy mayor for education Friday, reportedly because she gave Wilson the official guidance he said in his statement he asked for.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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