One of Washington D.C.’s top education officials has resigned after allowing a public schools chancellor to bypass the district’s highly competitive school lottery system.
The resignation of Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles was swift, The Washington Post reported after it was learned she let Chancellor Antwan Wilson’s daughter transfer to a top high school without participating in the lottery. The system is used to place students at the district’s public and charter schools and was created to ensure everyone has a fair shot at a quality education.
All students looking to attend schools outside their respective neighborhoods must apply for the high-stakes lottery, yet Wilson’s daughter got to bypass this critical step.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, Niles’ boss, noted that the transfer violated a policy forbidding preferential treatment to the children of government employees. In fact, the policy was written just a few months ago — by the chancellor himself.
“…This whole thing, that our city leaders are opting out of our neighborhood schools shows that they don’t believe they are good enough to serve all students, or they do not have the resources to serve all students,” Joe Weedon, Ward 6 representative on the State Board of Education, told the newspaper.
A couple weeks into the school year, Wilson decided that the school attended by his eldest daughter wasn’t the best fit. So, he had his wife approach Niles about the matter, and the two coordinated on transferring the teen to Wilson High School in Northwest D.C., a high–performing school with a waitlist. The girl was previously enrolled at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a sophomore.
Mayor Bowser was alerted to the chancellor’s situation earlier this week, the Washington Post reported.
“I have confidence in his vision and leadership, but I also know that he’s taken responsibility for the mistakes he has made,” she said of Wilson.
In a series of corrective measures, Bowser asked that the chancellor issue a public apology to both students and parents and that his child be removed from her new high school. She also referred the situation to the Board of Ethics and Accountability to see if Wilson violated the city’s code of conduct.
“My decision was wrong and I take full responsibility for my mistake,” Wilson said in his apology. “While I understand that many of you will be angered and disappointed by my actions, I’m here today to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”
Some have begun calling for his resignation, however.
As for Niles, the former deputy mayor has not commented on her role in helping the chancellor’s daughter switch schools but said in a statement that it’d been a privilege working for the city.
Niles’s chief of staff, Ahnna Smith, will now serve as interim deputy mayor.