BY LINDA BAKER
Crew is Oregon's first chief education officer, with a mandate of change.
On July 1, Rudy Crew — who has led school districts in New York City, Miami, Sacramento and Tacoma — started work as Oregon’s first chief education officer. Crew, 61 and an education professor at the University of Southern California, is charged with overseeing the transformation of Oregon’s pre-K-through-college educational institutions, with a focus on making the system more innovative and efficient. Oregon Business chatted with Crew about Oregon’s new education landscape, ongoing funding challenges and new relationships between public education, cities and the business community.
OB: You were chief of schools for some of the biggest urban districts in the country, including New York and Miami. Why come to Oregon?
What is really compelling for me is the way the governor and Legislature have formed the architecture of the system, pulling together all aspects of the different institutions. It has enormous appeal to anybody who has looked at this from the standpoint of deliverables to a community and the ability to create market demand for high- quality schooling and high-potential employees. A secondary reason is I have spent my career looking at the system from a K-12 lens. Now I’m at USC and can see the value proposition of universities in preparing leaders for the next generation.
OB: Oregon’s new education goals call for 40% of all Oregonians to have a bachelor’s degree by 2025, 40% an associate’s degree and 20% the equivalent of a high school diploma. How will the state meet these goals when funding continues to decline?
I think of it as how we see leadership taking advantage of the challenge and creating opportunity. Since we have a completely different relationship between organizations, there are some synergies useful for economies of scale. Some of it requires putting on a totally different lens. My background started out in business school. My interest is in the economics of urban education. We need to be entrepreneurial. We need to look at how technology factors into this. Some of these issues will be very thorny.
OB: Oregon’s business leaders played a big role in championing education reforms, including advocating for the job you now hold. What role do you envision for Oregon business?
I would like that advocacy role to continue. Second, there are practical issues that we need to ask the business community to work through. Students need to get acquainted with the world of work in a much more tangible and certifiable way. How do you dress for this interview: How do you think about this job? How do you access the network? I am intrigued by the idea of the business community helping frame that relationship between effort in school, learning and the marketplace. This is about scalability. This is about doing it writ large for the entire state.
OB: You say you are interested in the economics of urban education. This past May, Portland mayor Sam Adams gave city school districts $7.1 million to help prevent teacher layoffs. Should cities and schools develop closer relationships?
I applaud the mayor for having done that. It mimicked what I have been thinking about public education. There is enormous leverage that is brought by a mayor and superintendent creating a new conversation. That new conversation is what I think is going to take place in Detroit, New York and other cities. There has to be this linkage between the service that is provided and how the city uses that service to create a labor pool. If that relationship is a healthy one, then you will find newly structured relationships. You will find an ability to deliver that service so it is fully fundable and fully marketable.
OB: What can Oregonians expect from all the restructuring and relationship building?
That more people will want to be in public schools. That education may be one of the new exports that comes out of the state. That we get branded for doing education well.