Williams's Choice for Schools Post Tours D.C.
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 17, 2004; Page B01
Rudy F. Crew, the man whom D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he wants to become the city's next superintendent of public schools, met over the weekend with a dozen education and government officials and toured parts of the city, the officials said yesterday.
Crew came to the District unannounced Saturday at a time when he also is being wooed by the Miami-Dade County school system. Officials there said last week that they expected to lure him, but Miami-Dade school board President Michael M. Krop said yesterday that he did not know Crew's intentions and that negotiations had stopped suddenly.
"We've been out of contact the entire weekend," Krop said. "We're out of the loop."
Crew -- a former head of the New York City school system, the largest in the country -- could not be reached for comment and was returning yesterday to his home in Northern California, where he works for a foundation.
Crew is the best known of four candidates being considered to replace superintendent Paul L. Vance, who resigned abruptly in November after four years in the position.
Crew was the high-profile chancellor of schools in New York from 1995 until 1999, when he was ousted after receiving mixed reviews for his efforts to force out dozens of principals and take control of 40 low-achieving schools in an accountability campaign. A key issue leading to his departure was a clash over school vouchers with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; the mayor supported them and Crew didn't.
Congress recently approved a voucher program for the District with the approval of Williams (D).
Crew arrived in Washington on Saturday, visited a few school campuses and told city officials that he was unhappy to see how high the grass was growing outside Roosevelt High School in Northwest Washington because it sent a message to students that the system doesn't care.
He attended a hastily scheduled buffet dinner Saturday at the home of the D.C. school board president, Peggy Cooper Cafritz. She declined to discuss Crew but said of the evening: "It was at my house. Of course it went well."
Five members of the D.C. Council and most of the 10 school board members were at the dinner. They listened to Crew's views on education and reform and asked questions but, according to several who attended, never learned whether he wants to come to Washington. Several officials said they expect him to decide within a week.
"I assume he was interested because he was here," said Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), chairman of the D.C. Council's education committee, who attended the dinner and took Crew yesterday on an hours-long visit of some D.C. school campuses. School board member William Lockridge (District 4) joined them for part of the time.
"It really comes down to whether or not, frankly, Dr. Crew gives the signal that this is where he wants to be," Chavous said. "That's the whole thing."
The school board will make the final decision, but Chavous said members of that panel were working with the council and the mayor's office in an unprecedented way to find a new schools chief. Williams, who said last week that he wanted Crew in Washington, was out of town yesterday.
Many who attended the dinner said they were impressed with Crew. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) described him as: "Dynamic. Knowledgeable. Kind of an understated but clear sense of authority and confidence."
Last week, Williams said city officials are considering asking business leaders to contribute to a compensation package of as much as $600,000 in the first year to woo Crew. Vance was paid $175,000 in the District, where school enrollment is down to 65,000 students. Crew was paid $245,000 a year when he left New York, which then had 1.1 million students.
Yesterday, Chavous said that city leaders have not discussed finances but that the city would be competitive. Krop said Miami-Dade had not made a definitive offer to Crew.
The other candidates for the District position are Candy Lee, a former airline executive; Carl A. Cohn, a former superintendent in Long Beach, Calif.; and Stephen C. Jones, the school superintendent in Syracuse, N.Y.
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