Former Denver principal and assistant superintendent Antwan Wilson has been nominated to lead the high-profile Washington, D.C. school district.
“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “It is the premier job leading a district in the entire country.”
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who nominated Wilson, praised him in a statement, referencing the fact that Wilson, 44, grew up in poverty.
“In his 20 plus years in education, Antwan Wilson has been a teacher, a principal, an assistant superintendent and a superintendent, and at every level, he has been successful,” she said. “Not only is he an experienced leader, Mr. Wilson is role model for our students. His success proves that with hard work, they can achieve what they set out to do.”
For the past two and a half years, Wilson has been superintendent of the Oakland, Calif. school district. Prior to that, he served for five years as assistant superintendent in Denver Public Schools, supervising DPS’ middle, high and alternative schools. He was previously an instructional superintendent in Denver and principal of the now-closed Montbello High School.
While in a leadership role in Denver, Wilson oversaw the turnaround of struggling Montbello High, which was shuttered and replaced with three smaller schools. He also helped with several other secondary-school initiatives.
“If you said five years ago ‘here’s what I’m going to do in Denver: cut the dropout rate in half, increase on time graduation rate by 20 points, and cut suspensions and expulsions by more than half,’ a lot of people would have said ‘be serious.’ He led those initiatives and he did it,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the East Bay Times in 2014.
Mike Vaughn, who was chief communications officer for DPS during part of Wilson’s tenure, remembers him as a champion for all students, regardless of their background.
“Everything he did was focused on getting every kid a chance to get through high school and do well,” Vaughn said Tuesday. A lot of people talk about educational equity, Vaughn said, but “Antwan talks about it, lives it, breathes it and acts on it. He’s an inspiring person.”
The D.C. Council will have to approve Wilson’s nomination, according to the mayor’s statement. Wilson is expected to start Feb. 1 with a salary of $280,000.
Wilson will face several challenges as head of D.C. schools, the Washington Post reported, including increasing test scores and graduation rates for black male students, narrowing achievement gaps between the gentrifying city’s poor and affluent children, and negotiating a new contract with the teachers union.