The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The D.C. schools chancellor’s apology leaves much to be desired

D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson in Washington on Aug. 21, 2017. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)
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D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson’s public apology for violating the school system’s competitive lottery process was forced by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). Had Wilson’s willful circumvention of the regulation banning preferential treatment for the children of government officials that he signed not been detected, his child’s improper placement in a school of the family’s choice would exist to this day. Only because he got caught — and because of the mayor’s obvious displeasure — was Wilson’s child withdrawn from the school.

Jennifer Niles, the deputy mayor for education who helped the Wilsons get around the lottery process, was forced to resign. Wilson is staying. Bowser said she still has confidence in him. Is it misplaced?

Wilson’s apology casts his role in the improper transfer as that of a parent all at sea about how the process works. “I sought assistance on how to do this correctly, and as a result, my child was transferred to another school.”

Whoa. There’s more to it than that.

The schools chancellor deliberately turned the execution of the transfer over to his wife, who worked with Niles to secure the child’s placement in a reportedly coveted school.

“However,” Wilson wrote, “the process I followed did not align with DCPS policy.”

“Process I followed”? How about “the steps I took”?

“My decision was wrong,” he said. Which one? To transfer the child from a school that wasn’t a good fit? To turn to the deputy mayor for education to get special treatment for his child? To go along with the decision to bypass the waiting list and place his child in a coveted school?

Wilson said he took full responsibility for his “mistake.”

“Mistake” as in “carelessness,” “ignorance,” “lack of common sense”?

How about considering Wilson’s action to be a calculated step by the D.C. schools chancellor to accomplish a (perhaps well-intentioned, but) nakedly selfish goal — at the expense of other parents and children waiting in line.

That goes to character, honesty and integrity: building blocks of confidence.

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