DeKalb superintendent finalist: School board breached contract

Rudy Crew was announced in April as superintendent finalist for the DeKalb County School District. In May, the school board voted not to hire him. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

Rudy Crew was announced in April as superintendent finalist for the DeKalb County School District. In May, the school board voted not to hire him. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

The DeKalb County School District’s first superintendent finalist signed a contract before the school board voted not to hire him, his attorneys allege.

Rudy Crew also has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging he was discriminated against because of his age and race. He is seeking about $1.5 million in damages. The fallout from the board’s decision also cost Crew his job as president of Medgar Evers College in New York, according to a letter sent to the school board’s attorneys.

“All the evidence is going to show this,” attorney Steven Wolfe said about Crew’s contract with the district. “He signs it and sent it back. You know, when I went to law school, somebody makes an offer, they’re authorized to do it. You accept it. You got a contract.”

The DeKalb County School District did not respond to requests for comment.

DeKalb’s school board announced that Crew was its choice to become the district’s next superintendent during an April 23 video conference meeting. He was among 68 people who applied to replace Steve Green, who left the district in November after just over four years. During the live announcement, five board members spoke glowingly of Crew’s resume and what he could bring to the district.

Board member Stan Jester expressed concerns with Crew during the announcement, saying he worried about past allegations Crew bullied subordinates, spent taxpayer dollars on personal trips and furniture, and obstructed a sexual assault investigation.

The board — in a stunning twist — voted 4-3 on May 11 not to offer Crew a contract, after several weeks of emails and parent protests saying Crew’s past also concerned them.

The reversal left the district scrambling to find a leader in less than two months who would come aboard amid the coronavirus pandemic, which recently forced many districts to announce the school year would begin online. Cheryl Watson-Harris, formerly the first-deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education, began on July 1.

In the letter to the school board’s attorneys, Wolfe said board members presented through statements throughout the hiring process that indicated Crew’s age and race played a role in his ultimately not being selected. Crew is 69 years old and Black.

Crew told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after he was announced as the sole superintendent finalist that he had been contacted by the district’s search firm about the job. He added he was excited to spend several years tackling some of the district’s more pressing issues.

“I know how old I am, and I know what comes up when you look up my name,” Crew said in April. “What comes up in a Google search is just evidence of going through a war. I’m willing to stand in the breach. I’m not pushing this off on bad politics. It is what it is. You’re going to have to have courage for us to work together.”

Wolfe also said in his letter that the DeKalb school board’s decision has impacted Crew’s professional future. Crew announced his retirement from Medgar Evers College after the DeKalb decision was made public. Wolfe said officials told Crew they no longer wanted him on staff after he announced his pending move to Georgia.

“To have it be reported as publicly as it’s been ... that you were thoroughly vetted for a job and then rejected under circumstances in which everybody thought you were going to get the job. It ... raises all kinds of problems for his professional reputation, for his career future, again none of which he invited or sought out.”