New superintendent outlines plans for Alexandria schools

Alexandria’s newly named schools superintendent, Alvin L. Crawley, said that in the coming years, he plans to see all of the city’s schools fully accredited and ranking as high performers. He also aspires to ensure that they teach character and not merely cognitive skills.

In addition, he said he plans to shore up accountability to make school system officials “strong stewards” of tax money.

If he completes his tenure with all of that accomplished, he said at a meeting with reporters Friday, “I will be one happy guy and hopefully this will be a better system.”

Crawley was appointed interim superintendent in October, after Morton Sherman resigned abruptly days before school started. The board announced last week that he had been selected for the top job over more than 50 applicants.

His four-year contract, with a $215,000 annual salary, will begin July 1. Until then, he will work under the terms of his interim contract for $17,967 a month.

Crawley had a productive start to what started as a temporary job. He drafted a plan to reconsolidate the district’s five small middle schools into two large schools, and he put together a budget proposal that the School Board amended and adopted this week.

Improving performance at the city’s most struggling schools is a top priority, he said. Jefferson Houston School has been targeted for a possible state takeover because of chronic low test performance. The state has also identified two other elementary schools — John Adams and Patrick Henry — for interventions, because of low performance.

He has also planned a three-year review of all the various programs that have been adopted, including multiple different approaches to teaching reading and math. Many teachers have complained of confusion and fatigue over the many new initiatives introduced under the previous superintendent.

“We want to look at what’s actually effective in meeting the needs of students,” he said.

He said the district is also reviewing the amount of tests that schools give beyond state requirements.

At the outset, he has tried to get to know all the students and parents he could, he said. He has visited each of the 22 schools at least once, he said, and has begun holding parent coffee chats and regular meetings with an advisory committee of students.

“I think it’s important to listen to people,” he said. “I think we grow by learning from each other. . . . My style is being open to ideas and suggestions and sometimes criticism that will make us a better or stronger school division.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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