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Portrait of a Leader

Alvin Crawley’s steps to Alexandria

Virginia superintendent advises fellow leaders to "keep moving"
Superintendent Alvin Crawley expects enrollment in Alexandria City Schools to surpass 16,000 over the next five years.
Superintendent Alvin Crawley expects enrollment in Alexandria City Schools to surpass 16,000 over the next five years.

Alvin Crawley, superintendent of the Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, was the first in his family to attend college.

He grew up in Richmond, Va., with his parents, who never finished high school, and an older brother. His father was a supervisor at American Tobacco Company.

His guidance counselor at George Woods High School in the Richmond School District took him under her wing, and sent him on an 81-mile bus trip to visit Hampton Institute, which is now Hampton University. He was enthralled, and he later enrolled.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders/education from Hampton University, a master’s in speech-language pathology from Northeastern University, and a doctorate in education with a concentration in instructional leadership and administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

He started his career in 1988 as an administrator at Boston Public Schools and then held various positions at Chicago Public Schools, including assistant superintendent for special and gifted education. From there, in 1995, he moved on to Arlington Public Schools in Virginia, where he was director of special education and assistant superintendent.

It was his time in Arlington—under his mentor and inspiration, Superintendent Robert Smith—that led him to co-write a book, Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds and Practice, which focuses on efforts by Arlington parents and staff to close the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

In 2012, he became deputy chief of academic programming for the District of Columbia Public Schools and then served as interim superintendent at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland for a year. And last fall, he took the role of interim superintendent for Alexandria schools.

Crawley has also held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

Some advice for fellow leaders

  • Develop trusting and solid relationships with colleagues.
  • Set realistic timelines to get jobs done. “It’s hard sometimes because you want to approach problems with urgency,” he says.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • And use his favorite mantra, “keep moving.” “There are going to be those times that it didn’t go as planned, but you have to keep moving,” he says.