ATLANTA (AP) — One of Georgia’s largest school districts is likely to be led by the former leader of New York City’s school system.
The DeKalb County school board members on Thursday named Rudy Crew as their sole finalist to lead the suburban Atlanta district, which has 96,000 students. Crew has had success in New York and Florida, but also has experienced significant controversy in those roles, something not unusual for the leader of a major school district.
The board must, under Georgia law, wait 14 days between announcing Crew and voting to hire him. If officials move forward, they say Crew would start work on July 1.
The move may reflect the desire of DeKalb school board members to hit a home run with their new hire. The district often suffers in comparison to other suburban Atlanta districts, and has been beset by financial and administrative turmoil in recent years.
“We’re thrilled to present such an accomplished and innovative educators as our sole finalist,” Board Chairman Marshall Orson said in an online board meeting. “The board believes we have a great leader for the future.”
Orson touted Crew’s experience in turning around low performing schools, working in diverse districts, reducing overcrowding and improving state ratings for schools.
The 69-year-old Crew led New York City schools from 1995 to 2000. He earlier led school systems in Sacramento, California, and Tacoma, Washington.
Crew was known as “the other Rudy” when he led the nation’s largest public school system under then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. The two clashed over school vouchers, which the mayor advocated but Crew opposed.
Crew was credited with reforms that helped failing schools improve, but his tenure was marred by a 1997 report by Edward F. Stancik, then the special commissioner of investigation, that accused school administrators of delaying the report of a rape of a 14-year-old girl at a city high school. Crew accused the independent investigator of producing exaggerated reports into alleged corruption and misconduct.
He led Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida from 2004 to 2008, a time during which he helped more schools achieve “A” ratings under Florida’s system and built 29 new schools. But Crew had a rough relationship with school board members and fought with a teachers union over frozen wages. The gigantic district’s financial reserves were almost down to zero when he was forced out.
Crew served a year as Oregon’s chief education officer, but was unable to persuade lawmakers to pay for his plans to overhaul instruction and teacher training and was criticized for running up huge travel bills. He has been president of Medgar Evers College in New York since 2013.
“What this experience taught me about myself is the heart I really have for helping to shape the lives and educational outcomes of our younger students in a K-12 setting,” Crew said in a statement.
Board member Stan Jester said he would oppose Crew’s hiring, saying issues with the sexual assault investigation, financial management and travel expenses “give me great pause.”
Ramona Tyson has been serving as a short-term superintendent in DeKalb County since Superintendent Steve Green after Green announced he would not seek a contract extension. The board later decided Green should leave immediately before the end of this year.
“We do not have another four years for our children to lag behind,” board member Joyce Morley said. “We do not have another four years for our children to not be able to get what they need. And we do not have another four years to keep starting over. This is one of the most restarting districts I’ve ever seen.”
Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed from New York.