STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — DeKalb County Schools Superintendent in waiting Rudy Crew fielded questions from reporters last week about his sometimes stormy history with school officials, past allegations of spending impropriety and plans to get local students back in the classrooms.
The Board of Education named the New York educator the sole finalist in its search for a new superintendent last month.
Crew is expected to sign a contract by the middle of May and would assume the post July 1.
He comes to DeKalb after seven years as president of Medgar Evers College in New York City. While at the college, Crew has implemented programs to help increase enrollment and graduation rates and lower the number of incoming freshmen who require remedial courses.
During an hour-long press conference April 28, the educator was peppered with questions about press reports of his tenure at several school systems, leading with his departure as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools in 2008. The School Board split over his dismissal for allegedly mismanaging the budget, accusing him of overspending millions of dollars.
Crew said anyone who takes on challenges in urban schools comes away with detractors.
“It is simply part of the territory of change and transformation,” he said. “Unfortunately, there were times in Miami where that process…resulted in disagreements that resulted in many board members, or a couple of board members, feeling as though there really was not much of a relationship to be had with me.”
Crew said he never felt that way and took every opportunity to reach out to those who disagreed with him.
Among some of the issues that arose in Miami, he said, was the banning of books, a practice he opposes based on the U.S. Constitution and court precedence.
He said he left Miami because of the breach in the relationship, despite countless numbers of awards that had been won, including the School Board of the Year Award from the National School Boards Association.
He said the focus of the district had become about his relationship with the board, not about student achievement, and that helped guide his decision to leave.
Crew also faced questions about his tenure in Oregon where he served as the first Chief Education Officer in 2012 and 2013. After his resignation, questions arose about frequent out-of-state trips on missions he said were designed at fundraising.
In his opening remarks, Crew spoke of the energy and experience he brings to the job, traits he says will help guide the district into a new way of viewing education in a post-coronavirus world.
“We may end up finding ourselves discovering new and different pathways for students and parents and community members to pursue,” he said.
Crew also introduced his passion for globalization, instilling into curriculum language skills and a sense of how students fit into an interconnected world.
He said he’d like to begin the 2020-21 school year with health and safety as a prerequisite.
“I envision the start of [the fall semester] with a clear sense both to students and parents and the community at large that the schools are clean, they are safe, and they will remain as such by virtue of the practices of our school custodians and other workers who provide that service for us,” Crew said.
One initiative he proposed was formation of a “parents academy” to provide parents with tools that would aid them in educating their children outside the classroom. Many parents, he said, are not keyed in to the curriculum enough to foster learning within the home.
Also last week, a group of concerned residents called Restore DeKalb, issued a statement questioning the board’s selection of Crew. It cited press reports of his troubled past tenures in Miami and Oregon, as well as his latest position at Medgar Edgars College, where accounting practices have come under question.
“We encourage DeKalb County taxpayers to contact each Board of Education member and demand that they do not approve the signing of a contract with Dr. Crew,” said Joel Edwards, president of Restore DeKalb. “It is in the best interest of all DeKalb County stakeholders to start the selection process over rather than to hire someone who brings as many concerns as those raised by Dr. Crew’s employment history.”