Prince George’s County Interim School Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley’s announcement that he would leave the school system on June 3, almost a month before his contract ends, is likely to create more uncertainty in a district plagued by rapid leadership turnover.
Crawley, who took the reins of Maryland’s second-largest school system after William R. Hite’s abrupt departure in September, notified the Board of Education on Thursday of his plans to leave.
The decision comes just weeks after a state law was passed that allows County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to select the new schools chief, appoint three new members of the school board, and name the board’s chair and vice chair. Baker had sought a complete takeover, one that would put him charge of the school superintendent and the school system’s $1.7 billion budget.
The Board of Education released a statement late Thursday saying it understood Crawley’s decision, given the recent bid to take over the schools.
“We are saddened by Dr. Crawley’s decision to leave early,” the board said. “However, due to the passage of the recent legislation changing the governance structure of our school system, we fully understand.”
Crawley, who was the district’s seventh superintendent in 14 years, said in a statement that it was “with mixed emotion” that he was resigning. “I have enjoyed my tenure as Interim Superintendent of schools and appreciate the support of our Board, staff, parents, students and members of the community. I am very proud of the accomplishments we have achieved during my tenure.”
He did not return calls Friday seeking comment.
Baker said in a statement that he would “work with the Board of Education to ensure a smooth transition and offer my top staff and the rest of county government to assist in any way possible.”
Baker thanked Crawley for his time in Prince George’s and said that he is dedicated to finding “the best new leader” for the school system. The new superintendent will be known as the chief executive officer.
“Since signed into law, my administration has worked diligently on the new Board of Education appointment process and CEO selection process in concert with the Office of the Governor and State Superintendent,” he said. “I believe the new structure will attract and retain a very talented CEO.”
Under the legislation passed by the General Assembly, Baker is required to make his selection from a list of three finalists that will be sent to him from a new search committee set up by the governor and the state schools chief.
Crawley had signed a $215,000 contract that was to expire June 30. Instead, he will leave two days after the new state law takes effect. The law allows the county executive to select and the school board to appoint an interim superintendent if a vacancy occurs.
Christian Rhodes, Baker’s education liaison, said Crawley’s departure will not affect the selection process. It was unclear who would serve as interim until a chief executive is selected.
Crawley’s announcement came just hours after a group of county residents announced that it plans to fight the law that expands Baker’s authority over the school system. David Cahn, the co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board, told the board Thursday that plans are underway for a petition drive to take the issue to a referendum. He described the new governance structure as an attack against democracy.
“We are fighting back,” said Deborah Sell, who will lead the petition drive.
Crawley was hired in August to replace Hite, who took the school chief’s job in Philadelphia.
According to his contract, Crawley was tasked with addressing the operations of the 123,000-student system, including human resources, supporting services, information systems and finance.
Crawley, who had never served as a superintendent before taking the Prince George’s position, came to the county after working for six months as the deputy chief of programming in the office of special education of the D.C. school system. He spent the majority of his 33-year career in Arlington County.
In March, Crawley was named one of three finalists to become the permanent school chief, but the search was derailed while state lawmakers considered the school takeover proposal.
Crawley and the other two finalists withdrew their names from consideration during the legislative debate.