short list

Eva Moskowitz floated for education secretary, and New York City teachers union president digs in

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Eva Moskowitz of New York's Success Academy

With Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz reportedly in the running to become President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary, the head of New York City’s teachers union is preparing for a fight.

“Let the fun begin,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, speaking at a union forum on Wednesday.

Moskowitz, a Democrat who heads New York City’s largest charter network, has not commented publicly on speculation that she is being considered for the top federal education position, and a spokeswoman for Success Academy did not respond to requests for comment.

But Moskowitz met with Trump in New York on Wednesday, Politico reported.

That the charter school mogul would be considered for the job “shows you where they’re headed,” Mulgrew said of Trump’s education agenda.

Moskowitz has been a leading — and often bruising — critic of New York City’s education department. Her network, which has grown to 41 schools and roughly 14,000 students in four boroughs, is meant to prove that publicly funded but privately managed schools can outperform those run by a government bureaucracy — precisely the vision that Trump and his vice president-elect, Mike Pence, have put forth.

Success regularly posts some of the strongest test scores in the city. But the network has also weathered criticism over its discipline practices and accusations that its schools do not serve their fair share of high-needs students. It is under federal investigation after parents filed a complaint alleging that Success discriminated against students with disabilities.

Mulgrew said that criticism makes Moskowitz unfit to lead the nation’s schools.

“Education reform 101: I’m going to take the best and therefore my school is the best, and forget about those who can’t perform,” he said. “That’s not the goal of education in this country, and that’s what Eva Moskowitz is about.”

Also on Donald Trump’s short-list for the next education secretary: Tony Bennett, who ran schools in Florida and Indiana before being voted out of office there; former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee; and an Indiana congressman, Luke Messer.

big gig

Former Denver schools administrator tapped to be D.C. schools chancellor

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Antwan Wilson when he was principal of Denver's Montbello High School.

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.

Movers and shakers

Colorado League of Charter Schools president Nora Flood leaving to lead new Walton Family Foundation program

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Nora Flood addresses an audience at a school board forum in Jefferson County.

The leader of the Colorado League of Charter Schools is leaving next year to help start a new program of the Walton Family Foundation, the league announced Friday.

Nora Flood has worked for the league for more than eight years and became president in 2013.

“I leave the organization humbled, honored, and excited to start a new chapter in my life,” Flood wrote in a letter to the organization’s schools and supporters. “I hope that you continue to support our team and the League’s ever-so-important work. And I look forward to seeing you all as we cross paths going forward.”

Flood said she felt comfortable leaving because of the strength of the association, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018.

“I believe that the League is in great hands with its talented staff and dedicated board,” she wrote. “The organization is incredibly healthy and sustainable.”

The league exists to support charter schools during their start-up phase, train school leaders and staff, and advocate for charters at the legislature. Charter schools are publicly funded but run independently.

Flood will become education director for the James Walton Fund, a program of the Walton Family Foundation. The foundation is among the largest proponents and fiscal supporters of charter schools in the nation. (The Walton Family Foundation is also a financial supporter of Chalkbeat).

In her new role, Flood will be responsible for identifying and growing successful nontraditional education models in the charter sector, especially the Montessori model, that encourages students to direct their learning.

Flood previously ran Montessori schools before joining the league. James Walton, an engineer who lives in the Denver area, has spent time volunteering at Montessori charters, and he previously started a Montessori teacher-training center.

The league’s board will begin a search for a new president after the Thanksgiving holiday.