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Dr. Rick Cruz named Asheville City Schools Superintendent

Asheville City Schools is thrilled to announce the appointment of Dr. Rick Cruz as the district's new superintendent. With an extensive background in education and a passion for fostering academic excellence, Dr. Cruz brings a wealth of experience and innovative leadership to Asheville City Schools. 

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Rick Cruz as our new superintendent," said ACS's Board of Education Chair, George Sieburg. "He possesses a remarkable combination of educational expertise, strategic vision, and dedication to student achievement coupled with a demonstrated commitment to deep partnership with families, community, and educators. We are confident that he will lead our district to greater heights of excellence."

Dr. Cruz joins Asheville City Schools from Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas, where he serves as their Deputy Superintendent and helps oversee all aspects of the district’s operations. He previously served in numerous executive leadership roles, including Chief of Strategy and Innovation, Chief of Major Projects, and Assistant Superintendent of College and Career Readiness. 

"I am honored and excited to make Ashville my home, be an active member of its amazing community, and join the remarkable team at Asheville City Schools," said Dr. Cruz. “I am passionate about working alongside all our stakeholders to ensure that ALL students – regardless of their starting point, background, race, learning disability, or any other circumstances – grow and reach towards their limitless potential. And I am deeply committed to building trust and working with our entire community – both within the school district and outside of it – to make this happen.”

Dr. Cruz has a significant track record of boosting academic achievement for all students. During his time in Houston, there was a significant increase in the proportion of schools categorized as "A" or "B" based on academic achievement, rising from 50 percent to 78 percent according to state accountability results. This period also witnessed a significant surge in the number of students graduating from high school with college credit and industry-based certifications, while college scholarships more than doubled. Under his leadership, all student groups have seen significant gains, and the achievement gaps for those students who historically have been farthest behind, including low-income and minority students, have reduced significantly. 

“Asheville City Schools is receiving a highly effective, humble, and servant leader in Dr. Cruz. It is very difficult to fully measure and quantify the profound impact that he has had on students and their families” said Millard House II, the current superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. 

Dr. Cruz is a firm believer in collaborating with the community and families and in supporting and empowering principals, teachers, and other staff. He helped lead the expansion of HISD’s wraparound services initiative, through which the district has partnered with over 170 community-based organizations to ensure that students’ basic, mental, social, and physical health needs are being met. He also played a pivotal role in establishing a new compensation system for employees, resulting in the largest salary increase for teachers in the district's history.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Cruz for the past fifteen years, first as his principal, and for the past decade as a campus leader who has seen firsthand how he supports campuses and school leaders. He knows what needs to happen in schools for students to succeed and does a fantastic job of listening to and helping principals and teachers be successful”, said Adriana Abarca-Castro, the most tenured principal in Houston and the principal under which Dr. Cruz began his educational career. 

Originally from Mexico, Dr. Cruz began his journey in the field of education as a fifth-grade teacher in a school where 98 percent of the students faced economic challenges. His exceptional teaching abilities garnered him the Teacher of the Year award on two occasions. As a teacher, he founded and led EMERGE, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that now operates in multiple school districts and helps thousands of low-income students prepare for, attend, and graduate from the nation’s top colleges. 

“Dr. Cruz will leave behind a strong legacy in Houston. One characterized by providing life-changing opportunities to students and their families, especially those that need them the most. I have no doubt that he will continue to do similar things in Asheville” said Ann Stern, CEO of Houston Endowment, one of the region’s largest foundations, which over the years has invested millions of dollars into several of the educational initiatives Dr. Cruz has founded and led. 

Dr. Cruz possesses a doctorate in educational leadership and policy, as well as a master's degree in education administration, both earned from the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds a bachelor's degree, with distinction, from Yale University. He has served as an adjunct professor in the education programs at the University of Houston and Rice University. He is actively involved in the community and has served on the boards and advisory boards of several education and arts related organizations. 

In the coming weeks, we will organize opportunities for students, staff, families, and community members to meet and engage with Dr. Cruz. “Cruz’s enthusiasm and eagerness to connect with our exceptional students, staff, and community will undoubtedly foster a strong sense of unity, open communication, and mutual respect,” said George Sieburg.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Rick Cruz to Asheville City Schools. Under his visionary and collaborative leadership, we are confident that the district will continue to flourish and provide an exceptional educational experience for all students. Incoming Superintendent Dr. Cruz's first day on the job will be July 1, 2023.