An aptitude test convinced then teacher Jeff Crownover to quit his job as a history instructor and go to law school. Now, as the school district’s in-house attorney, he said he combines his love for education – and the law – to support teachers, administrators and students.
Crownover first went to Baylor University to major in history with the intent of becoming a teacher.
“My parents were both educators,” Crownover said. “My dad was a coach and a principal, and my mom was a classroom aide, and so I went right out of school and was a teacher for several years.”
Crownover taught both middle and high school in all types of history courses, including Social Studies, Texas History, U.S. History and Government.
“I like teaching, but I just felt like I was supposed to be doing something else,” he said. “I’ve always been passionate about public education in general and wanted to do what I could to help as many kids as I could in and the public education system.”
This prompted Crownover to take a few aptitude tests that gave him high scores in reasoning, analysis and problem-solving.
“I just kind of took a jump in and went to law school and enjoyed it, and so then, with a law school and then having taught before, it was just a natural transition,” Crownover said. “I didn’t even know there were school lawyers until I got to law school. When I realized that was the thing, that was kind of the route I wanted to go in.”
After law school, Crownover worked at a firm that helped various small districts.
“Then, I went to Lewisville ISD as their in-house attorney,” Crownover said. “But that whole time, we actually lived here in Prosper, and I was just driving to Lewisville every day. Then, when Dr. Ferguson became the superintendent, and there was an opportunity to come over here, I jumped at it. I live here. I’ve got two kids, one at Boyer and one at Reynolds. So, it was just an opportunity to be in the community here and work for the school where I live and send my kids.”
Crownover works closely with Ferguson and the school board, as well as with any teachers or staff members who need his advice.
“Those are the folks that are having to implement the laws and rules and policies that we have to go by,” Crownover said. “So those are the people that are generally reaching out about ‘Hey, what do I do here?’ or ‘Help me understand what what this means,’ or ‘What do you recommend that we do in this particular situation?’ Then my job is to explain to them either whether it’s a law or board policy, and ‘Hey, here’s where we are. Here’s where I think we ought to go.'”
Crownover said he occasionally does teacher “trainings” where he informs teachers of the law and gives them advice.
“I love doing trainings,” he said. “I think that’s a benefit to having an in-house attorney. My job is to try to keep us out of trouble versus waiting until we get in trouble. I love going and talking to teachers and administrators about some of these legal things and how they can understand the law. Making sure that our teachers and administration understand that there are ways we can solve the issue without just jumping right into the AP (assistant principal) or whatever.”
His main goal is to lighten the load of teachers, to let them better focus on students.
“These teachers, it’s all they can do just to stay up-to-date in their own fields, and just to make sure that they have lesson plans, and they have to grade, and they’ve got plenty to do,” Crownover said. “They don’t have time to understand what’s going on with what laws get passed. I enjoy getting to come in and making sure they understand: ‘Hey this is this is kind of where we are’ and get them up-to-speed. I try to focus more on the practical side of it – like they don’t care what some judge said in a federal case. They just want to know how does that apply to what I’m doing. So, I appreciate being able to guide them that way. I’ll make sure we’re within the law and that they can still accomplish what they need to accomplish.”
Crownover said the biggest challenge of his job used to be how often the law changed.
“Lately, the biggest challenge is that unfortunately, public education has become kind of a political hotbed, and that makes things very difficult,” he said. “We need to make very big decisions all the time that we know a large chunk of people aren’t going to like. It’s hard when the responses by those people are that we must therefore be evil or that we don’t like kids. We chose to be here because we believe in public education and then to be told that we don’t care about kids is tough.”
Since getting into his job as district lawyer, Crownover also said he’s gone into legislative advocacy for public education.
“Prosper ISD, and every public school I’ve ever worked with, is overwhelmingly filled with people who just want to be here to help kids,” Crownover said. “They love this profession, and I’m sure sometimes they frustrate you guys. But, at the end of the day, this is not an easy job, and they don’t get paid a whole lot, and so they’re here because they want to be here.”
To Crownover, it’s all about what happens in the classroom.
“Every single thing I or any administrator do is about making sure what happens in these classrooms happens,” Crownover said. “We’re trying to take as much of the the the burden off of teachers as possible, so that they can just teach. So, that’s kind of how I feel like I help kids in that I can I can help make sure all they need to do is worry about teaching. We’ll make sure we’re all compliant, and everything’s good, and so, that hopefully, they can be free to make sure you guys are taken care of.”