Middle school namesake devoted life to education

When Brian Cram was a little boy, he sometimes helped clean classrooms with his father, a custodian for the Clark County School District.

“He would knock on a desktop and say, ‘In this place happens the most important thing in our country’, ” Cram said. “He was always interested in education, and I think that’s why I went into it. The amazing thing is that in one generation, my family vaulted from custodian to school superintendent.”

Cram served as superintendent for the Clark County School District from 1989 to 2000. About the time he retired, the Brian and Teri Cram Middle School, 1900 Deer Springs Road, was named for him and his wife, who died in 1997.

“At the time I started at the position, the typical tenure for a superintendent was about 2½ years,” Cram said. “In my mind, education is the only thing that will solve our problems with poverty, crime, sickness and all those other things that seem to plague us.”

Cram served as superintendent during one of the valley’s major growth spurts.

“During my tenure, we built a little over 100 schools, and there was a lot of remodeling going on, too,” Cram said. “The population was growing, and it wasn’t unusual to hire a few thousand teachers a year.”

His wife was a classroom teacher for Clark County. Cram said she did the important work in education before the school was dedicated to the couple.

“She was a very good classroom teacher. She taught at Gray Elementary School for a number of years,” Cram said. “I’ve always believed that the student is the most important person in the school, and the classroom teacher is the next. ”

A garden outside the front entrance to Gray Elementary School, 2825 S. Torrey Pines Drive, is dedicated to Teri Cram.

Mary Beth Scow, Clark County commissioner for District G, was the president of the school board at the time the name was chosen and the school was dedicated. She said that there’s quite a process involved in naming a school, and there are usually hundreds of applicants.

“Naming a school for Brian and Teri Cram was one of the easiest decisions we made. I’m pretty sure it was unanimous, ” Scow said. “He served as superintendent for 11 years and worked in the Clark County School District for his whole career.”

Scow said that when she and her husband moved to town in 1977, she saw an article about the Chamber of Commerce working against a bond election that would have brought more money to the schools.

“He completely turned that around when he became superintendent,” Scow said. “I always felt that his strength was working with the community. He really got the support of business and all the major industries. He really showed the need caused by growth and showed that the money was being spent well. I think four or five bonds passed during his tenure.”

Cram was born in Caliente, and he and his family moved to Las Vegas in 1939 when he was 2. He attended school at Fifth Street Elementary School and Las Vegas High School, when it was housed in the building that is now Las Vegas Academy.

“I have grandchildren in the school system, and I’m interested in helping them get the best education they can,” Cram said. “One of my grandchildren will probably attend Las Vegas Academy.”

Cram has 15 grandchildren, 12 of whom live spread out across the valley. He has remarried and counts stepchildren and extended family as a great boon.

“Family dinners are a big affair,” Cram said.

Cram recalled that the first principal of Brian and Teri Cram Middle School was June Gunderson, who was a cheerleader at Clark High School when Cram was the principal there.

“It’s a small world,” Cram said. “The school mascot (at Cram Middle School) is a wildcat because June knew of my association with the Las Vegas High School Wildcats.”

Cram retired in 2000, three years after he was eligible, and stayed on through the start of the school year to make sure everything was in place for the transition.

“Now I’m the director of educational and community initiatives for the Greenspun Family Foundation,” Cram said. “I wanted to do something that still kept me connected to schools.”

Cram said that while he didn’t seek the recognition of having a school named for him and Teri, he is proud of the school.

“I think that the kids are receiving a good education there, and I think it’s a good example of what schools ought to be,” Cram said. “It’s a school where the teachers are personally involved with the students. The classroom seems to be the most important part of the school. That’s something that I absolutely believe in.”

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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