DeKalb superintendent finalist has controversial past, watchdog group says

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The chairperson of DeKalb County’s school board says they’re delighted with the choice for superintendent. But critics are lining up with questions about Dr. Rudy Crew.

Channel 2’s investigative reporter Richard Belcher says the questions include financial management.

Belcher said that Crew clearly answered the questions sufficiently enough to convince the board that he should be the next super in a district that has had five others in 10 years.

Crew was named the sole candidate for the job last week.

Critics in north and south DeKalb are unhappy.

“We've had enough controversy in our school district,” said Eric Oliver of Dunwoody.

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Crew is a well-known as the former chancellor of the New York City school district and head of the Miami school system. He had a statewide job in Oregon and is currently president of Medgar Evers, a small state college in New York.

The 69-year-old has a long track record, and curious taxpayers and parents are digging in.

“We did extensive research and investigation on Mr. Crews, found out that his financial management and accountability under his administration was not up to par,” said Joel Edwards of the government watchdog group Restore Dekalb.

In 2016, the New York state controller criticized some of the spending on Crews' watch at Medgar Evers College.

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The report cited nearly $120,000 in spending that was either improper or unsupported; $32,000 spent to furnish Crew's residence came from funds intended for a day care center.

“I take responsibility for anything that happens, anything that's on my watch,” Crew said. “But there's no impropriety there that I participated in. There's nothing. There's no finding there that was about impropriety. This really had to do, as I recall, with audits that had been done prior.”

Addressing some of the controversies in his past, Crew said they were nothing more than a witch hunt.

“There were also times that I think it just simply went too far, that it ended up being, if you say, some sort of journalistic witch hunt,” Crew said.

Critics do not contend that Crew's track record includes any criminal misconduct, but any hint of financial mismanagement makes them wary.

“You know if we were in the private sector, and you had annual revenues of $1 billion, you would not be hiring this guy to run your organization,” Oliver said.

Edwards’ group wants a forensic audit of the system no matter who becomes superintendent.

“It will be the starting point of getting DeKalb County schools on the right track,” Edwards said.

About the tensions in Miami, Crew told Atlanta-area reporters on Tuesday that there were differences of opinion sometimes between superintendents and their boards.

“Disagreements that resulted in many board members or a couple of board members feeling as though they were just, you know, there really was not much of a relationship to be had with me,” Crew said about his time in Miami.

In a statement, board chair Marshall Orson said the board is excited to have found Crew and cited his deep experience as an educator and administrator.

Channel 2 Action News has received several complaints from parents about Crew’s background, but we’ve heard nothing to suggest that the board is likely to wave

Crew and the DeKalb County School Board are in the middle of a 14-day public comment period.

If he wins final approval, Crew becomes the new superintendent on July 1. He would be the sixth superintendent of the school district in the past 10 years.