Probe details events that led to ouster of 2 top DC school officials

WASHINGTON — The D.C. Office of the Inspector General released a report on their probe into the events surrounding the preferential transfer of then-Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Antwan Wilson’s child to a top performing D.C. school without going through the standard lottery system. The initial allegations made in February 2018 led to Mayor Muriel Bowser dismissing Wilson and the Deputy Mayor for Education.

The report says that Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles helped Wilson transfer his daughter from the Duke Ellington School for the Arts to Wilson High School, another top performing school within the D.C. Public School system.

Niles backed up Wilson’s claim that Bowser was told of the transfer while the process was ongoing. Bowser denied this, and restated that she had not been made aware of the transfer until after the Office of the Inspector General contacted her regarding their investigation into the allegations.

The report states that while both Wilson and Niles appeared to act with a desire to follow the rules of the lottery system and avoid preferential treatment, their actions still led to the rules being bypassed.

“Although we found no evidence indicating the [Deputy Mayor of Education], the chancellor, or the chief of secondary schools intended to bypass policies and procedures, the [Office of the Inspector General] concludes that personal intervention by these senior District officials set in motion a series of events that resulted in the Wilson family receiving preferential treatment when their child was transferred to [Wilson High School].” The report states.

“These actions violated District policies.”

When Wilson took up the position of chancellor, one of the office’s top priorities was to curtail the ongoing issue of public officials using their positions to receive preferential treatment for their children to be placed into a school that was not their designated in-boundary school without going through the lottery system.

Wilson said he told Niles that he would like the transfer of his daughter to by handled by the rules and to avoid seeking special treatment for his daughter. Wilson then put his wife in touch with Niles to review the options for a potential transfer. While going over the options available to Wilson’s daughter, Niles put Wilson’s wife in touch with DCPS Chief of Secondary Schools Jane Spence to further discuss transfer options.

Spence testified that she took the request from Niles to work with Wilson’s wife to be a special circumstance. Niles said she explicitly told Spence “I want to make sure that we follow all of the rules and that there’s no undue influence because of the chancellor’s child.”

However, Spence said that being asked by the deputy mayor for education to handle a problem that involved her boss’s daughter seemed to imply a desire to see a favorable outcome for Wilson.

It was during this period in the later half of September 2017, that Wilson says Bowser asked how his family was adjusting to D.C. Wilson told the mayor that his daughter was facing challenges at Duke Ellington, but that his wife was working with Niles to resolve the problem. Wilson said that during this conversation, Bowser replied, “Keep me posted.”

A few weeks after that, in October 2017, Wilson said he told the mayor that his daughter had transferred to Wilson High School and “how that happened.” Wilson says he does not remember Bowser responding to his comments.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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