Former DeKalb superintendent finalist threatens to sue district over racial, age discrimination

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that a nationally known educator is threatening to sue the DeKalb County School System after the school board declined to hire him as superintendent after initially signaling that the job was his.

Dr. Rudy Crew, who has run school districts in New York City and Miami, was named as the district’s sole finalist in late April, apparently clearing the way for him to become superintendent in May.

But after the school board named Crew the only remaining candidate by a 6-1 vote, three board members reversed their votes on May 11, ending Crew’s candidacy by a vote of 3-4.

“You know, it raises all kinds of problems for his professional reputation, for his career future, again none of which he invited or sought out,” attorney Steven Wolfe told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher.

Wolfe says he has not filed suit against the district because he has to wait for a period of time after filing a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

Dr. Crews’ complaint alleges that he was a victim of both age and racial discrimination.

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In a June 16 letter to the school district’s attorneys, Wolfe wrote: “There is deeply troubling evidence that these board members based their decisions on illegal age bias” against Crew who is 69. Board member Michael “DaCosta, who is considerably younger than Dr. Crew, repeatedly expressed concerns to Dr. Crew that he was ‘older’ and…(asked) Dr. Crew if he knew how to use text messaging.”

To support his claim of racial bias, Wolfe wrote, “We have information that member (Joyce) Morley made ugly racial comments about Dr. Crew when she learned, apparently not long before the final vote, that Dr. Crew’s late wife was white. This apparently enraged member Morley, who complained to multiple people that Dr. Crew’s marriage to a white woman meant he had no respect for black women.”

Wolfe’s most basic claim is that the district couldn’t reject the veteran educator without some kind of settlement because Dr. Crew had already signed the 3-year agreement worth about $1.5 million dollars before the 4-3 vote not to hire him.

“You know, when I went to law school, somebody makes an offer. They’re authorized to do it. You accept it. You got a contract,” he told Belcher.

Wolfe says his letter is an effort to settle the dispute without litigation, and he said repeatedly this is not a “demand” letter. But he lays out specific suggestions about alleged damages to his client.

Wolfe says the district must pay Dr. Crew the full value of the contract and estimates that the alleged racial and age discrimination could bring the total damages to more than $3 million.

In his letter, Wolfe writes that “everyone involved….would be better served by a prompt, pre-suit settlement….which would doubtless attract significant media coverage.”

In response to an inquiry by Channel 2, the district sent a statement that it has “not been served with a lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Crew.”

Cheryl Watson-Harris took over a DeKalb’s new superintendent July 1.