A. J. Crabill, TEA's Deputy Commissioner for Governance, is responsible for supporting the agency's work regarding school improvement, charters, governance, complaints management, system support & innovation, investigations, school discipline/safety, accreditation, waivers, and districts of innovation.
Prior to his work at TEA, Crabill served eight years on the board of the Kansas City (MO) Public Schools. When he was initially elected to the board, Kansas City had the lowest accreditation status of any district in Missouri, was hemorrhaging funds, suffered regular scandals of public corruption and was in general disarray. Crabill led a broad suite of reforms that radically transformed the district. The district closed roughly 40 percent of its schools to deal with the mass exodus that had taken place in prior decades. The district also reduced the vendor list from 5,000 to 800 to stop payouts to those who were getting taxpayer funds -- often because of political connections -- but not delivering results. The district eliminated an $860,000 per year “rubber room” and began taking action to fire staff who were abusive to children. As a result of these efforts, grade level proficiency in literacy and numeracy rose markedly throughout the district and graduation rates also climbed more than 15 percentage points to 87.8 percent.
Crabill has also served on the board of the Missouri School Boards Association, the executive committee of the Council of the Great City Schools, the Policy Committee for the National School Boards Association, was an Education Pioneers fellow, currently chairs the 2017 annual conference for the International Policy Governance Association, and has provided governance training to school districts nationwide to help refocus school board members on the core mission of improving student outcomes.
Professionally, Crabill has been a software entrepreneur and consultant for 15 years. Recruited away from the University of Kansas in the middle of his sophomore year, he joined a dot-com startup focused on e-commerce. That dot-com failed, but from its ashes he launched a small IT business that became quite successful, Pixsoul. He sold the assets of that sole proprietorship in his early 20s. After that, he tried and failed at another product company startup and then worked as an IT consultant to small and medium sized businesses.
Raised in and out of foster care from birth until high school, Crabill bounced around enough to have attended 11 schools prior to graduation. He attended urban, suburban and rural schools; private, public, and parochial schools; lived with white families and families of color; experienced loving homes and homelessness. Guided by the idea that student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change and drawing on his intimate familiarity with the triumphs and terrors of America's safety nets for children, he has devoted much of his adult life to advocating for the well being of our nation’s most vulnerable youth.
Inspired by his parents (who fostered him from birth until five, before losing him and then eventually adopting him as an adult), Crabill has mentored dozens of young men, has helped raise five young men, and will not be surprised when God sends another young man to his open door.