The expertise and integrity Antwan Wilson displayed over a decade working in Denver schools led the district to bring him on as a consultant after he was forced to resign as chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools, Denver school superintendent Tom Boasberg said Friday.
Wilson left the D.C. job in February amid board calls for his resignation after admitting he had evaded school-enrollment policies so his daughter could attend a sought-after school.
Asked whether that gave him pause, Boasberg told Chalkbeat: “This is someone who had worked for over a decade in the public schools in Denver with absolute integrity and dedication and had such an extraordinary track record. Yes, of course, we are aware of what happened in D.C. And of course we’re aware of the decade-plus that he served with such integrity and such a record of achievement and compassion here in Denver Public Schools.”
Pressed again, and asked directly about concerns about the decision, he said, “I hear the concern, I understand the concern, it’s an important and it’s a valid concern … and I’ll just leave it at that.”
After Wilson resigned, David Suppes, the Denver district’s chief operating officer, contacted him to gauge his interest in working as a consultant on CareerConnect, the district’s career and technical education program that Wilson was instrumental in starting, Boasberg said.
Boasberg said the district turned to Wilson after investigating doing work with other consultants — including one it had worked with previously on a pro-bono basis. He said Wilson was a good fit because he “is so knowledgeable. He is probably the country’s foremost thinker on these issues around career and technical education and concurrent enrollment,” which allows high school students to be enrolled in and receive college credit in college-level courses.
“That just seemed like a great opportunity to be able to partner with someone who is so knowledgeable and has so much to contribute to this area,” Boasberg said, adding that expertise is hard to find because Denver is a national leader in this kind of work.
Word of Wilson’s return started spreading this week throughout the community and reached school board members, who received “no less than 30” inquiries about it, said board member Jennifer Bacon, who represents northeast Denver.
Bacon said district staff informed the board of the contract with Wilson this week as part of a regular check-in. She said she isn’t sure whether it’s right to work with him.
But Bacon expressed concern about the timing, with a renewed and contentious ongoing conversation about the state of schools in far northeast Denver. One group of community members is advocating for reviving Montbello High School, which closed on Wilson’s watch.
“For me, those types of decisions have to be thought of differently now,” said Bacon, who won election last year after campaigning on a platform of changing what she calls the district’s top-down management style. “We can’t just keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them over the last 10 years.”
Boasberg said he did not know what Wilson will be paid for what he described as one or two days a week of work while Wilson explores other career opportunities.
The district still has not provided the contract spelling out the terms of the deal with Wilson, which Chalkbeat requested on Thursday. A district spokesman promised an update Monday.
Wilson will be helping the district expand CareerConnect to its “pathways” schools, alternative schools that serve students who’ve struggled elsewhere, Boasberg said.
Boasberg said that Wilson’s family remains in Washington, D.C.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.