School & District Management

Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson Tapped to Lead D.C. Schools

By Denisa R. Superville — November 22, 2016 3 min read
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Antwan Wilson, the superintendent in Oakland, Calif., was named Tuesday as District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s choice to lead the city’s public schools, according to news reports.

Wilson, who has been schools chief in Oakland for just over two years, will succeed Kaya Henderson, who stepped down from the job in September.

Under Henderson, the District of Columbia school system made important academic strides, with a growing number of students reaching proficiency in reading and math on both the city’s annual exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. But achievement gaps between white and non-white students have been stubbornly persistent. During her tenure, enrollment in the district has also been on the upswing after decades of decline.

Mayor Bowser took to Twitter Tuesday morning before the announcement to tout the district’s upward trajectory.

Wilson, who was a high-level district administrator in Denver before moving to Oakland, will be tasked with building on that growth, but also tackling the gaps in academic achievement for different groups of students. As superintendent in Oakland, Wilson joined a group of big-city leaders committed to social-emotional learning and serves on a national commission of education leaders, researchers, state leaders, and others who are working on a multiyear endeavor to help schools figure out how to better teach social and emotional skills to students alongside traditional academic subjects.

The District of Columbia city council will have to approve Bowser’s pick.

In a letter to his staff in Oakland, Wilson wrote that he had accepted the job as chancellor and that he will leave his current job in February, the East Bay Times reported.

“Leading through an equity agenda aimed at increasing student achievement and elevating academic social emotional learning in our nation’s capital is more important now than ever because of the challenges our nation is facing,” he wrote. “My work with you, the talented educators of Oakland, has prepared me well for this new role.”

Wilson said Oakland schools are now “better positioned” to be successful than in recent years.

Before moving to Oakland in 2014, Wilson served as the assistant superintendent for Post-Secondary Readiness in Denver, where he received praise for his turnaround efforts. Graduation rates increased, while dropout declined in the schools under Wilson’s purview.

Wilson is a 2014 graduate of the Broad Academy, which trains leaders to run urban school systems. He was among a group of school district superintendents who joined Chiefs for Change last year.

Education Secretary John King said he was encouraged by Bowser’s choice.

“Antwan has a reputation for using a comprehensive equity agenda to help increase student achievement and elevate social emotional learning, a focus I am hopeful he will bring to DCPS as the district works to close achievement gaps. He is also known for promoting collaboration between traditional and charter schools and partnerships with city government, businesses, and community organizations—relationships critical to success in any education setting. His compelling life story—crediting schools with “saving his life"—professional training, and educational experience position him well to lead DCPS students, educators, and schools to greater heights.”

Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee also congratulated Wilson on his nomination.

“Antwan’s time as a classroom teacher has shaped his vision for serving children, not just with academic excellence, but as whole human beings,” Magee said in a statement. “Thanks to his leadership, Oakland students are more likely to graduate, better prepared for college, and less likely to become part of the school-to-prison pipeline. This is a great move for DC.”

Photo: Jennifer Niles, left, the deputy mayor for education in the District of Columbia, incoming schools chancellor Antwan Wilson, and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser arrive for a news conference at Eastern High School in Washington on Nov. 22 to announce Wilson in his new role. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.