WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has named Antwan Wilson, the superintendent of public schools in Oakland, California, as the new head of D.C. Public Schools.
Bowser made the announcement at an event at Eastern High School Tuesday morning. Wilson confirmed the move in a letter he sent out overnight to the Oakland Unified School District. He has led the school system in Oakland since April of 2015.
Wilson replaces Kaya Henderson who resigned last month after serving nearly six years as chancellor. Henderson built a reputation as a national leader in urban education reform, but while test scores and graduation rates increased, under her watch, the huge achievement gap between white students and non-Asian minorities held steady.
"A lot of people refer to it as the achievement gap – I like to think about it as an opportunity and belief gap and making sure the system is working for every child,” said Wilson.
"We've come a long way, but there is plenty more to be done,” said Bowser. “We know that our opportunity gap remains and we have to ensure that more students are graduating, and that when they graduate, they are college and career ready."
The 44-year-old Wilson is known as a proponent of charter schools and mainstreaming special education students. Wilson is a former teacher, principal and a top official in Denver's public school system.
But Wilson is not without his critics. The teachers’ union in Oakland has blasted Wilson for what they call his emphasis on charter schools over traditional public schools. It is a criticism he faced head on Tuesday.
“I don’t see it as a competition – charter schools are public schools,” said Wilson.
Gasia Mikaelian has covered Wilson for our sister station, Fox 2, in the Bay Area in California. She said, "He appears to be a pretty hands-on superintendent. My children actually go to Oakland public schools and he visited my son’s school a number of times in the relatively short time that he’s been here. He was very much out and about with the school community and I think parents and teachers like that.”
Wilson said his children will attend D.C. Public Schools. Mayor Bowser said she expects to have Wilson on board on Feb 1. Wilson will sign on for two years with an annual base pay of $280,000. His nomination will need to be approved by the D.C. Council.