Staff Editorial: Wilson High’s staffing increase offers sign of progress

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Wilson High School is located at 3950 Chesapeake St. NW in Tenleytown. (Brian Kapur/The Current/September 2016)
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Wilson High is the District’s largest high school and one of its best-performing. Yet this year’s budget threatened to undercut Wilson by starving it of adequate staffing — despite a D.C. Council allocation intended to stave off exactly that issue.

This spring, the council found an extra $11.5 million for D.C. Public Schools staffing, which the school system instead chose to spread around among various other priorities. That decision left Wilson needing to eliminate nine positions.

We were glad recently to hear a measure of good news. The Wilson Parent Teacher Student Organization’s November newsletter reports that the Tenleytown school has received a series of adjustments to its budget and personnel that have restored nine positions there. Five positions — a guidance counselor, an art teacher, a science teacher and two attendance counselors — have been permanently assigned to Wilson, while the other four have been temporarily shifted from other schools.

Obviously, this solution is temporary and imperfect. The school is left with uncertainty about its faculty and staff, and last-minute attempts to fill such positions don’t always succeed. For instance, as of November, the new science position at Wilson remained vacant — understandably, it was challenging to find a qualified teacher when the job became available only after the school year had already begun.

But we’re glad to see progress. Not only will the added positions help Wilson students this year, but the change also indicates some willingness on the part of D.C. Public Schools officials and Mayor Muriel Bowser to accommodate Wilson’s needs. We only hope that the school sees better provisions from the very start in next year’s budget process, and we urge Ms. Bowser and Chancellor Antwan Wilson to fund Wilson properly — both in amount and in procedure — for the 2018-19 school year.

The Wilson High newsletter singles out Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh and Ward 3 State Board of Education representative Ruth Wattenberg for helping restore the nine positions to Wilson this year. We would also like to commend them for their focus and attention to detail.

Beyond the immediate concerns of adequate staffing, Wilson is among the many Northwest schools with enrollments that exceed its physical capacity. We’re intrigued by an idea recently discussed by Parent Teacher Student Organization leadership, in which Wilson could partner with nearby higher-education providers — American University and the University of the District of Columbia — to provide some instruction to high school students on their campuses.

This prospect seems particularly promising for Wilson: American and UDC are especially convenient to Tenleytown, and Wilson would reap practical benefits by dispersing some of its 1,800-plus student body. Moreover, Advanced Placement classes are already intended to be at the college level and the D.C. Public Schools system has long offered the High School/College Internship Program (HISCIP) that allows dual enrollment for selected seniors. We’d urge the appropriate officials to explore this possibility seriously.