AJ Crabill currently serves as the Texas Education Agency's Deputy Commissioner for Governance. 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 for students. 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 doubled across the district and graduation rates climbed more than 15 percentage points.
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, a Visiting Fellow with Education Pioneers, currently serves as an instructor for the Texas Education Policy Institute, currently chairs the 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.
Prior to his work in education, Crabill was 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.
A man of deep faith, Crabill has been called to serve struggling youth his entire life. As part of his personal ministry, he has mentored dozens of young men, has taken in and helped raise five teenage boys over the years and continues to serve those in need. Part of this sense of mission comes from his own youth. Raised as a foster child and experiencing homelessness at times, he was bounced around for years until he found a loving home. In fact, he was born Airick Leonard West, but as an adult honored a promise to his foster parents to go through the adult adoption process, taking their names and marking the significance of the journey God put him on to become Airick Journey Crabill (or A.J.).