Superintendent to step down in June 2013

Lindsey Buck and Abby Lynes, editors

Crawley reflects on six years in Great Falls Public School district, announces retirement

Selling cookies and being a Girl Scout camp counselor is how Cheryl Crawley realized that children were not only inspiring to her, but also that she wanted to work with them for the rest of her life.

“When I think back, I realize that I was a teacher all my life. I’ve always been struck by providing for all kids,” she said.

Crawley, the Superintendent of Schools, recently announced her retirement after six years in the Great Falls Public School District. Even though she will miss her job, she said she is proud of the district’s accomplishments over the years.

“We’ve done some really fun and wonderful things. I’m so proud of what we do,” she said.

Crawley began her career in the field of education by becoming a teaching assistant at Montana State University. Later, she took teacher education courses in order to receive a degree in education. Crawley began one of her most monumental jobs in Salem, Ore., where she was the Director of Student Services. She then spent three years in Marin County, Calif., and then took her career to Montana.

Overall, Crawley has spent 48 years in the education system.

In Oregon, she was responsible for federal programs, bilingual education, and guidance and counseling. Crawley said she was astonished by the number of students who did not speak English, and she worked to “[develop] a full bilingual program.” Crawley also discovered that there was a “real push to not allow” students with HIV into schools.

“People were so frightened by HIV,” she said.

Crawley worked with staff members and students to diminish false conceptions of HIV and to implement safety guidelines that would allow staff to work with students who had HIV.

“We had to find common ground,” she said.

After her time in Oregon, Crawley said her love for “all kids” inspired her to start her career as the Superintendent of Schools in Great Falls.

She said she has experienced many hardships while in office, including a failed mill levy, a “multi-million dollar shortfall” in the budget, and a loss of 90 employees due to economic challenges.

“Taking those planned cuts over several years — while not at all easy to do– has left us in a stable financial condition,” she said in her Nov. 12 retirement announcement to the district.

However, Crawley said that the district has accomplished many things that she is very proud of.

During Crawley’s time in office, the rate of student dropouts has fallen 2.1 percent, Skyline School has been opened and 280 children are currently served under a program for homeless students, despite the increasing lack of funds for education.

Crawley said that she is most proud of providing “24-hour progress data” to students, creating a “balanced economic development for our region,” and giving “employees the very best in professional development.”

Even though the failed mill levy and budget cuts have challenged the administration, Crawley said that “if you get in there and really work,” it is possible to accomplish “deep and systemic” changes.

She said that the administration continues to work on improving the student dropout rate by 100 percent, getting the community involved in ending bullying, and refurbishing Great Falls High.

“It needs to be a total community effort,” Crawley said.

Upon announcing her retirement, Crawley said that she “cannot express what a pleasure it has been to serve as your superintendent for six years.”

In her six years in office, Crawley said she gained incredible knowledge and will “be there to support” the next superintendent.

“I’ll be cheering at the sidelines at everything they do after I leave.”