Alvin Crawley was only a few months into a new job with DC Public Schools when his cellphone rang one afternoon. The caller identified himself as a representative of the Prince George's County school board and asked whether Crawley might want to be the chief of the Maryland suburb's school system for the next year.
Crawley nearly hung up.
"Quite honestly, I think the original reaction was 'Is this a legitimate phone call?' " he says. "And then I was very pleasantly surprised! It just sort of caught me off guard, and when I realized it was a legitimate call, I was very excited and flattered."
|Turnover amid turmoil|
|Prince George's County had a number of schools leaders make rocky exits before William Hite more smoothly set sail.|
|1999: Iris Metts, former Delaware education secretary, becomes the superintendent.|
|2002: Metts is fired by the school board over flat test scores and disagreements about aides' bonuses. But the board is dissolved by the state legislature, and the new board rehires Metts.|
|2003: Metts decides not to seek a new contract, and the board hires Andre Hornsby, a former Yonkers, N.Y., superintendent.|
|2005: Under federal investigation, Hornsby resigns. Authorities find he directed school system contracts to his girlfriend and a business associate. He's convicted of wire fraud, evidence tampering and obstruction of justice. Howard Burnett is named interim chief.|
|2006: John Deasy named superintendent.|
|2008: Deasy resigns abruptly amid questions about the legitimacy of his doctorate degree and takes a job with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (He now leads the Los Angeles Unified School District). Hite is named interim superintendent, after serving as the deputy superintendent since 2006.|
|2009: Hite is named permanent superintendent.|
|June 2012: Hite announces he is accepting the Philadelphia superintendent position.|
|August 17, 2012: Alvin Crawley named interim superintendent.|
Friday was Superintendent William Hite's last day with the school system, making Crawley the top gun for Prince George's County Public Schools on Monday. Hite accepted the top schools post in Philadelphia on June 29, giving up $125,000 in severance to get an early release from his contract.
Crawley is the interim superintendent for the 2012-13 school year while the school board searches for a permanent placement. But Hite himself was promoted from deputy superintendent to the interim role in December 2008, before being officially selected as the schools' leader in April 2009. Still, Crawley is staying mum on whether he wants the permanent position.
"During the course of the year, I'll be assessing my tenure here, and at some point will be making a decision," he says.
Before joining DC Public Schools' Special Education Office as a deputy chief, Crawley was an assistant superintendent of Arlington Public Schools who focused on eliminating the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their peers, and co-authored "Gaining on the Gap: Changing Hearts, Minds and Practice."
"He's a great guy. I'm really happy for him," said Arlington Superintendent Patrick Murphy, who worked with Crawley for about three years. "I know he had expressed some interest in pursuing a superintendency and I think he's a great fit and match for Prince George's County."
As the head of Prince George's schools this year, Crawley says his "signature" will be pushing faculty to build stronger connections to the children they work with.
"It has to be very deliberate," Crawley says. "You teach kids to be respectful and responsible. One of the ways you do that is you talk to students about what these things actually mean, how do adults model those behaviors in school."
He also wants to continue the gains made during Hite's tenure -- namely, steady climbs in math and reading scores on the Maryland School Assessment exams. Since 2007, the percentage of fifth-graders passing the reading test has increased from 62 percent to 84 percent.
The key, he says, is to step back and look "very honestly" at where the schools are succeeding and where they aren't, though he's not sure yet what his first target for reform will be.
"This is my first week on the job," Crawley says. "I'll probably have a different opinion in a couple weeks."