2022 | Schools

MCPS superintendent search ‘on schedule’ to conclude in February, district says

No additional details given about process

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The search for Montgomery County Public Schools’ next superintendent is “on schedule” for a February completion, according to a district official, who declined to provide additional details.

After a six-month process, the school board’s selection is expected to be announced in February, according to a timeline previously announced by consultants leading the search.

The school board’s chief of staff, Lori-Christina Webb, wrote in an email on Thursday afternoon that the board is “on schedule, having interviews in January and announcement in February.”

She did not address questions such as if a list of finalists will be announced, how many people applied or how many candidates have been or will be interviewed.

Representatives of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), the search firm, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

MCPS has used HYA for its past four superintendent searches.

The school board in August approved a contract with HYA to lead the search for former Superintendent Jack Smith’s replacement. The contract is for $52,500, plus “travel expenses as appropriate and other optional additional services as requested by the board.”

Smith retired in the spring after leading the district for five years.

His second-in-command, Monifa McKnight, has stepped in as interim superintendent through the end of June. She applied for the permanent position.

The job posting for the superintendent position gave basic facts about the school system’s size and budget, and talked at length about the district’s commitment to “addressing disparities in student outcomes by closing gaps in opportunity and achievement for all students, in all classrooms, in all of our schools.”

In a list of 16 “recent accomplishments,” the posting detailed students’ performance on recent AP and SAT tests, and various recognitions for its programs.

The listing did not detail preferred qualifications or experience of potential candidates.

The district held three virtual community meetings in the fall to gather feedback about the “educational priorities and desired leadership qualities of the next superintendent.”

An online survey was also established for people to submit feedback.

In a presentation to the school board in November, HYA representatives said feedback showed the community wants the district’s next superintendent to be a strong leader, willing to engage with the community, and committed to diversity and inclusion.

The presentation was the Illinois-based firm’s first to the school board since launching the national search in August.

According to the report, more than 1,500 people participated in at least one of the three public forums, and 1,845 people (students, teachers, parents, administrators and others) were interviewed individually.

More than 3,100 people responded to the online survey, HYA officials said.

The qualities that respondents most wanted in the next superintendent, according to consultants, were:

• A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
• Budget and finance experience
• A communicator who can build relationships and trust in a diverse community
• Respects divergent opinions and ideas
• Someone with an education background (such as a former teacher)
• Transparent, accessible and collaborative
• A student-centered approach
• Willing to be the “face” of the school district and be present at schools and events and within the community
• Ability to recruit and retain talented, diverse staff members
• Someone who is a “visionary” and optimistic about the future of public schools.

Over the past 30 years, since 1991, MCPS has had four superintendents, not including those who were interim replacements. Before Smith, Joshua Starr served for four years, Jerry Weast for 12 years and Paul Vance for eight years.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com