Rudy Crew's Lessons Learned From the Miami School Chief

Rudy Crew has good reason to be flying high. One of the most sought-after -- and highest paid -- superintendents in the country, he has spent four years as head of the nation’s fourth-largest district, Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In just the past 12 months, he has written an acclaimed book and has been named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

But on a day in mid-March, the hard-driving, hard-charging Crew is dealing with a situation that board members and administrators find all-too-familiar these days -- budget cuts. The night before, he met with the board for nine hours to discuss spending for the rest of this year and 2008-09.

“It’s been a good year and a tough year in some ways as well,” he says at the start of a phone interview with Editor-in-Chief Glenn Cook. “The state of affairs in Florida is very bleak. And that carries with it a tremendous amount of tension around the work we have been trying to scale up. We’ve got to cut $200 million from our budget for next year and we had to cut an additional $32 million last night from this year.”

Those numbers are huge to all but the largest districts, and they’re still large enough to put a strain on Miami-Dade, which has a $6 billion budget. For Crew, who has been superintendent in Tacoma, Wash., Sacramento, Calif., and New York City, the cuts are a vivid reminder of battles won and lost before.

“This is a repeat of Proposition 13 when I was in California,” he says. “I know the territory well, but it’s not fun.”

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