We marked two milestones last week, with the first being the announcement of Alvin Crawley as the new superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools. We also saw his inaugural one-on-one meeting with local reporters.
That Crawley, who was named interim superintendent in October, has gone so long without sitting down with the city’s press corps is deeply troubling. For months he has overseen the district, embarking on major initiatives like reconsolidating the two middle schools and crafting a budget, without having to answer to reporters.
Before last week’s meet-and-greet with the new head of schools, the Times made multiple requests to interview Crawley. Given the challenges facing city educators — the prospect of a state takeover at Jefferson-Houston, a ballooning student population and looming fiscal constraints, just to name a few — it seems important to get to know him, his leadership style and his priorities. And then share what we gleaned with the community in print and on the web.
But nothing came of those requests.
Crawley has been otherwise proactive in introducing himself to the community, holding a series of meetings with parents, for example. This is good — and worth commending.
However, it’s no substitute for dealing with the press.
For one, reporters are very experienced at asking tough, revealing questions and reading people. When it comes to putting someone on the spot, we are your go-to experts. This is our job, after all.
More importantly, though, news outlets act as conduit to the community at large. No amount of neighborhood meetings can make up for the reach of the city’s press corps.
Here’s why that’s crucial in Alexandria: We all know how fast-paced life is inside the Beltway, especially for busy parents. No matter how ambitious Crawley’s outreach efforts, there will always be those who just can’t make the time.
And that’s where we step in.
Say what you will of former Superintendent Morton Sherman’s tenure in Alexandria, but he availed himself to the press. Was the back-and-forth contentious at times? Of course. But it also let Sherman share his thoughts and priorities with the community as a whole.
If Crawley could learn anything from his predecessor, it’s that keeping an open line to the media is a responsibility — and in his best interest.
Last week’s sit-down was a start. Let’s build on this.