Time to boot schoolyard bully out of superintendent's chair
Miami-Dade school superintendent Rudy Crew today faces huge challenges in a budget crunch and a fractious school board.
But those aren't his main pitfalls. His greatest single impediment is Rudy Crew. He is his own worst enemy.
He gets in his own way so often that he has single-handedly made a bad situation into an impossibility. It's now beyond saving. It's time for Dr. Crew to make his exit from Miami, one way or another.
Dr. Crew may be a great educator. He is certainly a fine theoretician — his ideas for schools are spot on. But he makes a terrible dictator, so bad that he gets in the way of his own best ideas.
He is employed by a board that he has split down the middle by his own behavior, which includes ignoring his bosses' requests to be informed, to put issues on the board agenda and to meet.
To those who disagree, he acts like the schoolyard bully. You almost expect to hear him taunt them by shouting "Na na na na naa."
The straw that broke the superintendent's back came last week when he boycotted a discussion of the budget crisis and kept his whole staff away too. The board session wasn't advertised far enough in advance, he said, and, hey, we've met enough on this anyhow, so forgeddaboutit.
Unfortunately, by law the board must set the budget. It's not Dr. Crew's call. And, by law the board is his boss, not the other way around.
The board was forced to hurry meetings because Dr. Crew, at his imperious best, failed to inform his bosses for more than six months that the school system was running a deficit. He said when it was uncovered that he'd tried to hide it until he had written a formal report.
Meanwhile, the schools were drowning in a sea of red ink.
If Dr. Crew had wanted to get fired, he couldn't have picked a better tactic than his combination of secretiveness, arrogance and insubordination.
Until Tuesday, the question of whether to keep him was tainted by an election that involved one of his four school board critics and three of his five supporters. Now that's out of the way. Regardless of the election results, Dr. Crew is likely to soon shove one more backer over the line into the anti-Crew camp.
Even if he doesn't, he's made the board more dysfunctional than ever — which, by the way, is saying a lot. Who'd have thought the board could ever be less effective than it was?
Now there's absolutely no way Dr. Crew can be of any use to his true constituency: our school children. He doesn't defuse conflict, he exacerbates it. We're going to have the worst kind of gridlock in the school board and the worst kind of animosity throughout the school system.
If he really cares about public education in Miami, he'll leave on his own. If not, sooner or later the board will send him packing. And, if that means paying $700,000 to buy out his contract, it'll be well worth it.
We'll miss Dr. Crew's good ideas. We'll probably never again hire a superintendent with such a strong basis in educational theory.
On the other hand, a superintendent of even modest ability can borrow Dr. Crew's good ideas and implement them far better than Dr. Crew, in the embattled position of his own making, ever could.
Dr. Crew has failed to build loyalty of those under him, over him and near him. If he doesn't like a school board discussion, he opts out. Like a spoiled kid, he takes his bat and ball and goes home — it's play his way or he won't play.
All of this is not to say the board is blameless. It's not. But Dr. Crew started a fight with board critics and, voilá, more critics appeared. Like a kid, he's now divided the board into a war between his gang and the other gang — and someone is sure one day to shift sides and boot him out the door.
Of course, it's not good timing. The school year is just beginning.
But when is it ever good timing to replace a superintendent? Still, it must be done, by whosever initiative.
It's also time to begin a national search for a replacement. Not an Alex Penelas-like search, either — you'll remember, when he was county mayor he tried to use a national search to replace the airport director with his next door neighbor, who had zero airport experience.
No, we need a professional educator. And, one of the most vital qualifications beyond academic achievements should be the ability to play nicely with the other children in the educational sandbox.
Because when Dr. Crew leaves Miami carrying his final report card, he'll walk out with an A average in academics but a huge failing grade in deportment.