Alvin Crawley to become next superintendent of Alexandria schools


Alvin Crawley will lead Alexandria City Public Schools as the new superintendent. Crawley, seen here at Northwestern High School, was most recently interim superintendent in Prince George’s County. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Alvin L. Crawley will become the next superintendent of the Alexandria City Public Schools system, making permanent an interim post he has held since October.

The Alexandria School Board announced the decision Friday afternoon after slightly accelerating the search for a new schools chief in order to meet a state law that says the top position cannot go unfilled for more than 180 days.

Karen A. Graf, chairman of the School Board, said it “unanimously selected Dr. Crawley from a pool of top candidates” and that board members were impressed with his calm, collaborative, positive style.” The board plans to vote on Thursday to make Crawley’s position official.

When Crawley interviewed for the interim job, Graf recalled, he asked: “Do you want someone who will hold down the fort, or do you want someone who will come in and work?”

“The board wanted someone who would work,” Graf said. “And so he has had to approach some difficult decisions as an interim. . . . I really respect that.”

The veteran educator replaced Morton Sherman, who resigned abruptly in August, just days before the first day of school and nearly two years before his contract was to expire.

Crawley, 55, stepped into budget negotiations midstream and crafted a lean budget that does not give teachers a pay raise.

He also has taken responsibility for school performance as the city comes under increasing scrutiny for its test scores and overall performance.

Jefferson-Houston School has been targeted for a possible state takeover because of chronic low test performance, and four of the city’s five middle schools this year were on track to lose their accreditation within a few years and be subject to similar sanctions.

Crawley helped design a plan to reconsolidate the five small middle schools into two large schools and add more student-support services. The move reverses some of the middle school changes Sherman put in place shortly after arriving in Alexandria five years ago.

“I am unequivocally honored to have this opportunity,” Crawley said in a statement Friday. “As superintendent, I plan to continue to be very visible, responsive, and accountable to all ACPS stakeholders. We have begun serious, thoughtful efforts to enhance the educational experience for our students, and I will work tirelessly to continue to move this division forward.”

Crawley has held top administrative jobs in Chicago and Boston, and he spent 17 years in the Arlington County school system, including as director of special education and assistant superintendent of student services. Most recently, he was the interim superintendent of Prince George’s County schools.

Crawley was named a finalist for the Prince George’s superintendent job last year but withdrew his name from consideration after the county executive sought legislation to overhaul the school system and take control of the selection of the superintendent; Crawley stepped down from the interim job days after the new law took effect last June.

There were 56 applicants for the top Alexandria schools position, including 26 sitting superintendents. Six were recommended to the School Board by a search firm and four were interviewed.

A series of community forums were held in December during which parents and students could describe what they wanted in a new leader. Many said they wanted someone who was collaborative and approachable.

Melynda Wilcox, president of Alexandria’s PTA Council, said she is glad that the city is not bracing for another leadership change, particularly with so much transition underway in the middle schools and at Jefferson-Houston.

“I am glad that he was around during the time that some of these important decisions are being made about our schools, so he knows the story behind the story,” Wilcox said. “He has already been a part of these changes.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in Northern Virginia.
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