LCS Superintendent Dr. Crystal Edwards Continues to Innovate as She Leads

To speak with Dr. Crystal Edwards is to know, within moments, that she is passionate about learning and devoted to cultivating a love of learning amongst Lynchburg City School students. Since taking her post as the superintendent of LCS in April 2018, Dr. Edwards has skillfully led the school district through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, established important community partnerships, and fronted and taken part in initiatives to support students in a variety of ways. Her extensive science background, comprehensive and thoughtful approach to education, and emphasis on creating authentic connections make her a unique and indispensable trailblazer in our community.

Edwards was born and raised in New Jersey, and she worked in five school divisions there before moving to Lynchburg with her husband, Brian, with whom she has a blended family of five children. Within a span of only 24 years, she moved from a high school science teacher position to a supervisor of science and math, then to a director of science and math, then to an assistant superintendent, and finally to a superintendent position. She went on to serve as superintendent of Lawrence Township Public Schools for seven years, and the school district was named a National District of Character in 2014 under her leadership.

“We really focused on good citizenship for our kids, our staff, and our families, and I just think that’s a very important accomplishment,” she recalled. “I’d love to do that down here as well.”

Since moving here, Edwards has been impressed by the sense of community and the level of community support, particularly for local students.

“Lynchburg has provided such a welcoming environment where there are so many people who are interested in helping our kids and who want to work with our schools,” she noted.

“For example, being here right at the time when Beacon of Hope was starting their ‘Stay Close, Go Far’ initiative and being part of helping kids get scholarships to go to college or attend community college for free was monumental. It’s a game changer for our kids.”

Community, authenticity, and compassion are the cornerstones of Edwards’ approach to education.

“Being authentic with children and letting them know that we, as adults, also have down days, disappointments, and failures is so important,” she said. “I also always talk about ‘seven, eight, nine.’ Seven hours a day, a child spends with us [at school], and we give them a high-quality education during that time.

But it’s also important for them to get eight hours of sleep each night, and that leaves nine hours of family and community time. Many children are fortunate to have a family structure that just happens naturally, but we know that for some kids, that’s not the case. If they don’t have that structure, to some degree we can create it. That’s also a big part of what we do.”

Edwards is also a champion of her staff, noting that they are “fantastic” and that it is “important for them to share their stories and for a community to know
that a school division doesn’t revolve around a single person, but rather around a culture.”

This spirit of collaboration is the
beating heart of LCS’s new strategic plan, “Excellence by Design.”

“One of the big things that we’ve been doing is working with business partners and industry sectors here to help prepare our kids for the next level of jobs, particularly in this area,” Edwards said of the plan.

“We are taking a very deep dive into our curriculum and looking at how we can bring our business partners closer into our classrooms, particularly elementary and middle school classrooms. We’re looking at revamping the face of LCS, which is really exciting.”

Amidst this period of transformation—at LCS, in Lynchburg, and in the world at large—it is nice to know that there are sincere leaders like Dr. Crystal Edwards who see change as an opportunity to grow rather than as a threat to the status quo, who rise to the occasion time after time when the going gets tough, and who truly care about paving the way for future generations.

“I’m an introvert and am not always as comfortable as people might think I am, but I believe in myself and I’m all about helping other little learners grow to do the same thing,” she stated. “Helping develop the next leaders warms my heart.”