Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Good Luck, Dr. Crew

From the Sun-Sentinel:

Determined to find a superintendent experienced in running a large urban school district with a diverse student population, the Miami-Dade County School Board voted Monday to select Rudolph F. Crew, the former chancellor of the New York public schools, to lead the nation’s fourth-largest school district.

The choice of Crew came after a selection committee had whittled the nationwide pool of applicants down from 70 candidates. Crew, who is black, was given the nod over Nashville superintendent Pedro E. Garcia, who came to Miami from Cuba in Operation Pedro Pan, a Catholic Church-organized airlift that brought 14,171 children out of Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power.

If Crew accepts the job, he would inherit a $4.3 billion system plagued by inadequate school construction, budget woes and allegations of nepotism and cronyism. But in taking the reins from Superintendent Merrett Stierheim, Crew also would have to navigate a system that, like Miami-Dade County, has often been beset by divisive politics and ethnic tension.


In 1990, black residents held a one-day boycott to protest the selection of the county’s first Cuban-born superintendent over a black 31-year veteran educator. Community observers say the board’s decision to pick a black superintendent more than a decade later marks an important milestone.

Maybe we’re coming full circle,” said Bishop Victor T. Curry of the New Birth Baptist Church.

The first and last black superintendent, Johnny Jones, went to jail in 1980 for attempting to steal nearly $9,000 in gold-plated plumbing fixtures for a vacation home he was building in Naples. He denied the charges, and according to Marvin Dunn, a Florida International University professor who has written extensively about blacks in Miami, many Jones supporters felt he was under special scrutiny because of his race.

Dunn said the board’s decision to pick Crew is important because he would likely have a special understanding of some of the disciplinary problems of black children. Also, Crew could be more effective in getting black parents involved in their children’s education, Dunn said.

Curry, an influential black community activist, agreed. He hoped the board members picked the most qualified individual who just happens to be black.

“I wish the district well and I’m sure this gentleman is qualified,” Curry said.

I wish him the best of luck, too.

Update: Here’s a backgrounder on Dr. Crew from the Miami Herald (free registration required)