DeKalb Schools board votes not to hire superintendent finalist

The vote was a foregone conclusion.

So when DeKalb County Board of Education members began openly discussing the coming vote on whether to extend a contract to superintendent finalist Rudy Crew during their monthly meeting Monday afternoon, comments were more indicative of a lost opportunity.

Two weeks after all but one board member voted to name Crew the district’s sole superintendent finalist, they voted 4-3 not to hire him permanently for the position.

“We were very mindful of what we were looking for,” board Chairman Marshall Orson said. “We wanted a superintendent who had big district experience. Someone who more than moved the needle, but showed results for those students who are more at risk. We found … a person who had done that job. He had done it in New York and done it in Miami.”

Board members Diijon DaCosta, Michael Erwin, Stan Jester and Joyce Morley voted not to hire Crew. Orson, along with board vice chairwoman Vickie B. Turner and board member Allyson Gevertz, voted to hire.

The announcement that Crew — 69 years old and currently president of New York's Medgar Evers College — was likely to become the district's next superintendent was met with concern from residents who took issue with Crew's history, including allegations he spent taxpayers dollars on personal items, bullied subordinates and obstructed a rape investigation.

The about-face leaves the district without an heir apparent, with current Superintendent Ramona Tyson set to retire at the end of June. Board members did not speculate about whether they would discuss with Tyson the possibility of extending her contract or going back to the list of finalists given to them in January by BWP & Associates, which handled the district’s superintendent search process.

Orson said in the two weeks between the first announcement and Monday's meeting came a "very deliberate campaign" trashing Crew which never brought up his track record for addressing issues with equity.

“There was very little discussion that he was not good at getting children educated,” Orson said.

Board member Joyce Morley said her vote against bringing Crew to Georgia’s third-largest district was less about his past controversies and more about timing.

“We’ve made everything to be about a new superintendent and not as much made about being a district and 100,000 students,” she said during the meeting. “And that’s always my focus, what’s the best for the 100,000 students. And we get caught up in the people, we get caught up in the negative and we get caught up in the individual.

“I never believed that this was the right time to go in the direction to bring in anybody new.”

Crew was set to take over the position held by Ramona Tyson since November, when the school board severed ties with former Superintendent Steve Green, who had been with the district since 2015.

Georgia law dictates districts wait 14 days between announcing finalists and extending a job offer. During that time, residents held protests and asked pointed questions during town hall meetings held virtually about Crew's past controversies. They also asked what he intended to do to address reopening a district that shut its school buildings to help curb the coronavirus' spread.

On the latter, Crew suggested hybrid learning, with schools reopening while still affording educational opportunities for those not ready to re-enter the public.

“We need to be responsive to that,” he said.