Getting to Know Rudy Crew
Quite obviously, I'm a word person. After 20 years as a journalist, I'm certainly most comfortable expressing myself like this, by sitting down and writing.
When I saw Rudy Crew recently, I realized he isn't a word person. That's not to denigrate his writing or how he speaks. It's just a realization that he best expresses himself through action, and interaction, with a group of people.
Crew conducted a one-hour workshop at Fordham University's Superintendent's Recognition Day in July. As he was explaining his management style, chalk in hand, jacket off, he paused for a moment to tell the packed audience of principals that his father used to play with Duke Ellington's band. Crew reminisced about attending practices with his father and peppering him with questions about how this fantastic group of musicians worked to create music.
Then, returning to his message, he said, "Kids need a beat, a cognitive beat." To make his point, he started tapping his foot. What he meant was that beyond the curriculum, beyond the teacher, beyond the school conditions, educating a child has to feel as natural as one of Ellington's best rhythms.
Crew uses that same search for rhythm in his job. He knows where the Miami-Dade district needs to go. To get there, some of the work will be drastic, not incremental. "You've got to rewire people. You've got to let them know they can lose their job," he said. This was less a threat than an explanation. He wanted this group to know that to achieve his goals in Miami will be difficult, the work will be hard, but it will be completed.
"I think of my teachers as artists," he said. "But they need resilience. Everybody has to be told, at some point, that their work isn't good enough, that they need to do better. It's not about a review, it's about the work."
Later in the day, Crew was in a panel discussion with six other superintendents. As various topics were raised, you could feel the former chancellor of the New York City Board of Education probing for the right answers. He wasn't afraid to admit he's been wrong, or to say that he's still unsure about a topic. But once he made up his mind, there was no holding back. He would start to answer questions and the passion would build, his tone growing more sure until it was all he could do to not to lecture the crowd of principals like wayward children.
This is the persona that comes through in our cover story this month, "Rudy Crew is Breaking the Mold," page 32. Contributing writer Ron Schachter visited Crew in Miami and as his Q&A shows, the superintendent remains passionate in his advocacy for children, but he's also learned how to use his experience in New York City to change the way he operates in Miami.
As for operations in District Administration's Norwalk, Conn, office, for more than four years, our editorial team has remained constant. Myself, Editor Laura Dianis, Features Editors Melissa Ezarik and Angela Pascopella and Art Director Carrie Abel have put out more than 50 issues together, always striving to offer you more information in a better format. This is Melissa's last issue; she's moved to our sister publication, University Business, to become managing editor. We will miss her, but not too much (I hope) because now that her office is next to mine, her expertise will never be far away.