Incoming Asheville schools superintendent withdraws from job

SUPERINTENDENT NO MORE: Rick Cruz, introduced as Asheville City Schools superintendent May 15, has decided not to take the job because of a family emergency. Photo by Greg Parlier

Once again, Asheville City Schools is without a superintendent.

Rick Cruz has decided not to take the job as new ACS superintendent due to a “family medical emergency,” according to an email from Dillon Huffman, ACS spokesperson.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that I will no longer be able to serve in this role as I will need to stay in Houston to support an immediate family member who is experiencing an emergency medical situation,” Cruz said in a video post on ACS’ Instagram.

“Our thoughts and well wishes are with Dr. Cruz and his family during this challenging time. We recognize that many of us were excited to welcome Dr. Cruz and had grown hopeful about the leadership he would offer,” Huffman wrote in an email to Xpress.

ACS will announce a replacement superintendent at a special board meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 8, Huffman said.

The new superintendent will be chosen from one of the three other finalists previously interviewed by the board, according to a letter to district leaders signed by board Chair George Sieburg and Vice Chair Amy Ray.

“The four superintendent finalists the Board interviewed were all exceptionally qualified, and the Board is confident in our next superintendent. The leading candidate is a former principal and current superintendent, who is a proven servant leader.  They bring a strong commitment to both equity and excellence,” wrote Sieburg and Ray.

The announcement comes three weeks after Cruz was announced as incoming superintendent. He was slated to replace Interim Superintendent James Causby on July 1. Causby was named to the interim post in June 2022 when Gene Freeman abruptly left the position more than five months before his previously announced November retirement.

ACS has had five superintendents over the last ten years. That history of turnover played a role in the superintendent search process this spring.

Summit Search Solutions guaranteed that it would repeat the search process for free if the superintendent left for any reason during the first year of employment or was terminated or resigned based on performance-related issues within two years on the job, as part of its contract.

ACS paid Summit $30,000 to conduct a superintendent search that yielded 49 applications. The list was  whittled down to nine semifinalist, then four finalists based on more than 1,000 responses garnered from numerous public input sessions.

At the board meeting announcing his selection May 15, Cruz said he planned to make Asheville home for the “long term.”

“I know that this work takes time. It’s about relationships, about building trust. It’s about figuring out how we work collectively to make things better for kids. And I am really looking forward to being here for a very long time with each and every one of you as we work together toward excellence.”

Before being announced as Asheville City Schools incoming superintendent, Cruz oversaw operations as deputy superintendent for the Houston Independent School District, the eighth largest in the country.

Cruz was slated to make $215,000 annually from ACS, paid through state and local funding sources through June 2027. For comparison, Causby makes $183,000 a year. Freeman made about $188,400, Huffman said.


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2 thoughts on “Incoming Asheville schools superintendent withdraws from job

  1. Belkis

    ACS just dodged a bullet. I’m sure Mr. Cruz is personally a fine individual, but as a business owner that works with and in school districts across the country, Houston ISD is a complete nightmare. This is not the model that we should seek to replicate in Asheville.

  2. El Gordito

    Whoa! What the hell is going on at the Asheville School District? Someone is definitely running folks out of town!

    And 30k to find candidates? Have y’all heard of Craigslist?

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