My Departure from NABE

By James Crawford


Message to NABE Members and Friends
March 13, 2006

Again I want to express my thanks to all those who have supported me over the past two weeks, since the National Association for Bilingual Education declined to renew my contract as Executive Director. That includes the dozens who have written letters of protest to the NABE Board and the hundreds who have signed a petition calling for my reinstatement and for the resignation of remaining Board members.

I also want to thank former Board members Josefina Tinajero, Stephen Krashen, and Mary Carol Combs for their tireless efforts to set the record straight. Their response to the latest misleading statement from the current NABE Board appears below.

Finally, let me endorse the sentiment expressed by so many of you, that the Board should be accountable to NABE members and supporters. It should explain important decisions forthrightly rather than hide behind a curtain of secrecy. Contrary to what its statement implies, the Board is not bound – as I, unfortunately, am – by any confidentiality agreement in this matter.

The full extent of what I am able to say (without facing legal reprisals) is contained in my Open Letter of March 6.

James Crawford

Response to NABE Board Statement
March 12, 2006

The recent (March 10) statement from the remaining NABE board members says that they intend to ignore all protests. They intend to hire a new executive director (a current member of the board?) and replace all resigned board members as soon as possible. They say that statements of protest, including those by resigned board members, "mischaracterize what we have done," but claim they cannot say more because they are "legally constrained not to discuss confidential personnel decisions."


Apparently, the board members were constrained not to discuss personnel decisions with us as well, during the time we were on the board.

It is not a violation of any agreement we made to say that we were completely surprised when a majority of the board voted to terminate Jim Crawford (not renew his contract).

It is not a violation of any agreement we made to say that at no time, formally or informally, were we part of any substantive discussion about terminating Jim Crawford. Our suspicion is that the discussion and the decision was in private among the remaining board members.

The board states: "The vote of the Executive Board majority reflected our considered views on how NABE can most successfully carry out its core mission of supporting BILINGUAL education." As we have indicated in our statements, the board rarely discussed "supporting bilingual education."

There was no discussion of moving in a "different managerial direction" and hardly any discussion of"educational and advocacy goals" related to Jim Crawford or anyone or anything else.

The board's statement accuses us (among others) of mischaracterizing what they have done, but does not say why. The board is hiding behind a non-existent legal smoke screen to give the impression that there were substantive reasons, related to bilingual education, for their decision. If there were such substantive reasons, we would also like to know about them.

Stephen Krashen
Mary Carol Combs
Josefina Tinajero

An Open Letter To the Members and Supporters of NABE
March 6, 2006

Dear Colleagues:

I am gratified by all the expressions of support and encouragement I have received since my departure from the National Association for Bilingual Education on February 25.

Some of you, however, have received an erroneous impression that I want to correct. Contrary to the vague and misleading notice on the NABE web site, I did not resign as Executive Director. The truth is that the NABE Board decided not to renew my contract.

It’s disappointing that I will be unable to finish the job I started nearly two years ago. I am proud of what my staff and I accomplished during that time in revitalizing NABE to better represent our field and the children we serve.

I continue to believe that strong advocacy is essential. NABE has a critical role to play in resisting attacks on bilingual education, curbing the abuses of high-stakes testing, and ensuring adequate resources for English learner programs. Yet I fear that the Board’s decision will be disruptive to that mission and will be divisive within the organization.

Although I would like to say more about the circumstances of my departure, I am prevented from doing so by the confidentiality provisions in my contract. (Any questions or concerns should be directed to NABE Board President Pedro Ruiz: What I can say is that, in my opinion, the Board acted unwisely, without considering the best interests of NABE or the field of bilingual education.

Nevertheless, I am pleased to note that three NABE Board members have had the courage to stand up for their principles. Josie Tinajero, Steve Krashen, and Mary Carol Combs have resigned from the Board to protest its decision.

I look forward to working with them – and with many of you – in the future. And I deeply appreciate the assistance I have received over the past two years from a few loyal colleagues on the Board, from numerous members and supporters of NABE, and from dedicated employees on the NABE staff.

As for myself, I will be happy to return to my previous job as an independent writer and advocate for bilingual education. It’s a far less stressful and more psychically rewarding way to earn a living.

Still, I regret that my departure comes at a critical time for the field, when NABE could have a major influence on federal and state policy for English language learners, and when my skills and experience could have been put to good use. I will always wonder what we might have achieved, had I enjoyed the kind of support an executive director must have from board members to be effective.

James Crawford

Statement of Josie Tinajero, Steve Krashen, and Mary Carol Combs
March 1, 2006  

Dear friends and supporters of NABE,  

Over the past weekend, in a closed and confidential session, the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) executive board voted not to renew Jim Crawford’s contract as executive director.  

We continue to believe that Jim did an excellent job of running the organization. He developed an advocacy position on No Child Left Behind that responded most appropriately to the political climate, and articulated that position beautifully and with integrity. The series of publications he developed and the website he redesigned were outstanding. The San Antonio and Phoenix NABE conferences were elevated to a professional level like we've never seen before. He definitely moved NABE’s agenda forward in a positive way. He was good for NABE and good for the field.  

We three have resigned from the NABE Executive Board.  

Josie Tinajero
Steve Krashen
Mary Carol Combs

Additional Statement of Stephen Krashen

My Resignation from the NABE Executive Board

Service on the NABE board has been frustrating.

I had hoped that NABE would engage in truly noble tasks, that we would inform the public about bilingual education, its reasonable premises, and its successes. I had hoped that NABE would do things that individual affiliates could not do, that NABE would work with affiliates in states facing attacks on bilingual education, and that we would help regain ground in states in which bilingual education has been dismantled.

I had hoped that NABE could tap the wisdom of neighboring fields, as well as the wisdom of those involved with similar issues in other countries and bring this information to all NABE members.

I had hoped that NABE could take a more active role in heritage language development and the problem of disappearing languages.

We had started along this path. Jim Crawford had taken strong and concrete steps in each of the directions I have listed.

I understand that all organizations require attention small, technical details and that this cannot be avoided. But the smaller the issue, the more interest this board took in it. The larger the issue, the less interested they seemed.

The board meetings were filled with extended discussion of trivia, such as regional versus national representation of board members, reimbursement of travel expenses, awards at the Annual Meeting, and squabbling over the role of the Executive Director (I am sure several board members would have preferred an Executive Secretary). In one meeting, the main
feature, our strategic plan, never made it to the table, thanks to all the extended discussion of trivia.

On emails and in informal discussion, there was a great deal of enthusiasm and energy for arguing about which hotel we would stay at, the size of the rooms we would get, and whether board members would get extra free tickets for NABE events. Again, I know these things need to be dealt with, but I could not detect any interest in bilingual education among most of the board members or any sense of urgency about the problems facing us. Most important, the considerable expertise of the Executive Director was squandered.

One thing they were adept at: Political intrigue and tactics.

With the removal of Jim Crawford as Executive Director, I see no hope for improvement of the situation.

Stephen Krashen
March 6, 2006

Additional Statement of Mary Carol Combs

Dear Friends and Supporters of NABE,

I want to thank the dozens of people who have emailed me to support my decision to resign from the NABE board. It was a painful decision, so I am gratified by your support.

As you know by now, at the February 25 NABE Executive Board meeting, a majority of board members voted not to renew Jim Crawford's contract as Executive Director of the organization. Subsequently, Steve Krashen, Josie Tinajero, and I resigned from the board to protest that decision.

Many of you are wondering why. Jim indicated in his statement released yesterday that he was precluded by confidentiality provisions in his contract from saying more about the circumstances surrounding his firing.

We have been asked by the Executive Board not to reveal what transpired in the board meeting itself, and have received a letter from one of NABE's lawyers (at the request of NABE Board President Pedro Ruiz), stating that the remaining board members would like us, first, to refrain from making public statements critical of the board decision and, second, to support NABE's efforts to recruit a new executive director “broadly acceptable to the bilingual education
community.” However, I think NABE members and others in the wider community deserve to know what happened and why. Steve Krashen has put out his own strong statement: let me add my voice to his concerns, and explain what happened PRIOR to the board meeting.

To begin, let me state the obvious: Jim Crawford is more than broadly acceptable to the bilingual education community. Within the NABE rank and file membership, he is very popular and is seen as the most informed, astute, and effective NABE executive director in recent memory. Not only is he knowledgeable about the fields of bilingual education, second language acquisition theory and practice, socio-linguistics, and applied linguistics, he is experienced at navigating the political culture of Washington and Capitol Hill. During the nearly two years of his leadership, Jim brought to NABE a level of recognition and respect that the organization has not enjoyed in many years. He (and by extension NABE itself) has become a nationally recognized voice for the rights of English language learners under No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is difficult to imagine any other individual as scholarly and shrewd at the helm of NABE. This rare combination of scholarship, skills and experience will be extremely difficult to replicate.

So why did the remaining board members vote to fire him? A good question and we should ask them, because they’re not saying publically. Instead, a cryptic statement has been placed on the NABE website announcing merely that Jim Crawford is no longer executive director of the organization (leading people to wonder why he “resigned,” for example).

It became clear in board communications that certain board members were more interested in micro-managing the every-day business of the NABE office than willing to let Jim do his job. At the NABE conference, some board members were upset that they had not been given large numbers of free tickets to conference events, even though doing so would have cost NABE
approximately $6,000 at a time when the organization was facing financial difficulty because of lower attendance at the conference. This is a sad commentary on the priorities of certain board members, who thought more about trivia and perks than about service to the field.

There is so much we need to do to revitalize, defend, and explain the field of bilingual education, not only to policy makers but to members of the general public. Our students deserve nothing less than complete attention to this task.

Resigning from the board was painful for me, because I continue to believe in the broad goals of the organization and believe that we need a national voice in educational policy debates. One of NABE's goals is to unite the field ofbilingual education behind NABE's leadership. Jim Crawford was attempting to do just this, but the board dismissed the very individual who could best achieve this goal. In his absence, I fear that the success and effectiveness of the organization will be sorely diminished.

For the good of the organization and the field, Jim Crawford must be reinstated, and the remaining board members must step down.

Mary Carol Combs
Tucson, Arizona
March 7, 2006