THE MOST remarkable aspect of former D.C. Public Schools chancellor Antwan Wilson’s latest version of the events that led to his ouster is not his new claim about Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) complicity. No, what’s most striking is Mr. Wilson’s claim that he did nothing wrong when his daughter bypassed the system’s competitive lottery to transfer to one of the city’s most desirable high schools — even though the transfer violated a rule that Mr. Wilson himself had promulgated only months before.
In his first interview since his ouster, Mr. Wilson said he had not asked for any special treatment in seeking a change in schools for his daughter last September. “I just want people to know that I tried to follow the rules,” he told Post reporters Perry Stein and Peter Jamison. In fact, city rules — established by Mr. Wilson last June to quell an uproar over well-connected parents bypassing the lottery — specifically state that the discretionary transfer process is not available for a student whose parent or guardian is a current or former public official. “DCPS will deny the request immediately without further consideration,” reads Chancellor’s Directive #103. Mr. Wilson’s apparent lack of awareness of what constitutes special treatment and his refusal to take responsibility for his own actions are damning.
Nonetheless, his explosive (if belated) claim that the mayor knew and had no objections to plans to transfer his daughter from Duke Ellington School for the Arts, where she was unhappy, must be investigated. Ms. Bowser has vehemently denied any suggestion she was aware or approved of a break in policy. She has said she learned of the matter on Feb. 12 when D.C. Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas informed her office that his office was looking into the circumstances of the assignment of Mr. Wilson’s daughter to Woodrow Wilson High School, one of the city’s best, with a waiting list of more than 600 students.
“Absolutely not,” Ms. Bowser said when we asked her if she gave either affirmative or implicit consent to the transfer. She told us she does not believe Mr. Wilson told her about his daughter attending Wilson High but said she couldn’t completely rule out the possibility that he might have made an offhand reference to it. Administration officials say they have been consistent in their explanation of events and that Mr. Wilson never raised the mayor’s alleged knowledge as a defense for his actions. He went public with his claim after signing a separation agreement that gives him $140,000, half of his salary.
The D.C. Council said it plans to hold a hearing on this matter, but Ms. Bowser said she doesn’t plan to testify because it’s likely to be a “political circus” and she believes the inspector general, with whom she and her administration are cooperating, is better positioned to get to the bottom of things. With the mayor’s credibility under challenge in an election year, the inspector general should report to the public as expeditiously as possible. Key to that effort will be hearing from former deputy mayor Jennifer C. Niles, who also was forced to resign for her role in facilitating the transfer and who has declined to comment on the events. We urge the inspector general to give this matter top priority because the longer questions linger, the harder it will be to focus attention on the crucial work of school improvement.