Q&A with Roy Crawford, Summit School District’s interim superintendent
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What will be your approach to implementing the equity policy, and how will you address concerns from parents who are opposed?
I need to know how the policy was created, how opposition to the policy was processed during the drafting stages, what kind of input was accepted and incorporated when it was written. And so I’m kind of in the research phase right now.
I need to understand the roots of it. I need to understand where the opposition came from. I need to understand how opposing points of view were dealt with during the crafting of it.
I will say, I agree with the premise of the policy in terms of my own personal beliefs.
Some parents are concerned that the district’s focus has shifted away from academics. When it comes to test scores, where is there room for improvement and what will your strategy be?
I think that test scores and equity are not mutually exclusive. Many kids have obstacles in front of them, whether it’s trauma, whether it’s biases in curriculum, etc. But many kids face obstacles, and I think that if you really want all kids to perform at a high level, you have to provide all kids with equitable opportunities. So I think the two are related. And to think in terms of, “It’s either this or this,” I don’t see it that way.
They complement each other in terms of equity and academic excellence. I’ve had a number of conversations to just kind of reassure people who are concerned about academics and test scores and performance — a number of conversations just in 2 1/2 days with the high school principals, with our academic chief, just now with the district leadership team — not about test scores in particular, but about curriculum, about student achievement, about what I call children being the bull’s-eye, like in a dart board, they’re at the center of it.
So going into the school year, how are we supporting teachers, who are the critical people in a child’s life in terms of their academic performance and principals? Who are critical people, and how are we supporting them going into this school year to put children in the best position to achieve at high levels?
And equity is an integral part of that, but it’s about student success, student academics and student achievement. My experience (so far) is that people are acutely aware of student achievement.
After more than a year of COVID and hybrid learning, will students be back in the classroom this fall and what will they need to be successful?
Our plans right now are that they will be back in the classroom. I just came out of a meeting where we’re planning those opening school celebrations with all of our staff and teachers. So our plans right now are that they will. But in conversations with the high school staff and leadership (Monday), they were clearly focused on academic support for students.
But one of their key priorities was also emotional support, because the data is clear on how it’s impacted children. Clearly, I think building leadership is focused on both academic and social and emotional support.
How will you work to improve communication and transparency with the community?
I’ve got to understand where the feeling that there isn’t transparency comes from. I go on and I watch the board meetings, I open up the documents, etc., and since I applied a month ago, I’ve been able to access so much information. I’ve got to understand where people see the lack of transparency occurring and what the district can be transparent about and what they can’t.
There are things you can talk about and things you can’t talk about, and I know it drives people crazy when they don’t get clear answers about issues that are really hot-button issues and understanding where that comes from and what the district can provide and what they can’t and how to articulate that.
So I get that in terms of people saying there’s more going on here than what we know, and of the things that are going on behind the scenes, what could the board have shared and didn’t, and what can’t they share. Those things are clearly articulated, but I’m really invested in building as much trust as we can.
The more trust there is, the more people don’t suspect something’s being hidden. If there’s no trust, then you suspect, and so I’m hoping we can build some trust and build credibility by being open and honest.
How do you plan to build trust with teachers and administrators?
To me, building trust is about being present, being in their space, meeting them on their terms, having personal conversations, and I’m really working hard at that. So to start those, just sitting, having a cup of coffee, take me on a tour of your building.
I got here last Friday, my first day of work, Molly (Speer) met me at the door. We walked to my office, I dropped my book bag and she started taking me on a tour around the building. It took about an hour and a half just to make the trip through the hallways, and that was just hallway conversations. That’s how you build relationships.
And when you get to know people and interact with people on a personal level, then when we’ve got to make tough decisions, when you’ve got to be collaborative, when you’ve got to be supportive, you’ve got some foundation to do that on.
What are your top three priorities as superintendent?
To build relationships and build trust with the principals, with the central office administration, with teachers, with parents and with the community as a whole, which is easier said than done because it’s a big community, but that’s No. 1.
No. 2 is, there was a speaker at a case conference in Breckenridge 10 or 15 years ago, and he was a leadership expert. One of his young graduate assistant researchers said good leadership is really pretty simple: People work harder for leaders they like, and they like leaders who make them feel good about themselves. And that just resonated with me. So my second goal would be for people to feel good about themselves, for the principals, for the administrative team, for teachers, for kids to feel good about what they’re doing and feel good about where they are.
Another key goal is the strategic plan — making it meaningful, substantive, specific so that the parents, teachers, children, community understand it and become invested in it. And I think one of the goals of the plan is equity seeking and how equity fits into that plan in terms of students’ success, employee success, parents feeling good about where equity fits into that strategic plan.
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