Jack Smith, the interim state superintendent of schools, is expected to be named superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Thursday night, according to Washington Post reporter Bill Turque.
The county Board of Education is expected to vote on the conditional appointment at a special meeting Thursday night in Rockville.
The state superintendent must formally approve local school system choices for superintendent positions. Because Smith is serving in the state superintendent role through the end of June, it’s unclear who would approve his appointment at MCPS.
Smith couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday morning.
Larry Bowers, who has served as MCPS interim superintendent since last February, is set to retire in July.
Smith became interim state superintendent in September 2015 after serving as the Maryland State Department of Education’s chief academic officer since August 2013.
He came to the State Department of Education in Baltimore from Calvert County, where he served as that school system’s superintendent from 2006-2014. He moved up to that position after serving as the school system’s deputy superintendent and a middle school principal.
The 58-year-old Missouri native graduated from Eastern Washington University in 1980 and got his master’s degree in school administration in 1985 from Notre Dame of Maryland University. He started as a teacher in Richland, Washington, before becoming an assistant principal and principal there from 1988-1992.
From 1992-1998, he was the middle and high school principal of the Christian Academy in Japan, an English-speaking school in Tokyo. In 1998, he became a middle school principal in Calvert County.
If appointed Thursday night, Smith would lead the largest public school district in Maryland and one of the largest in the U.S. with a record enrollment of more than 156,000 students this school year and 9,000 more students projected to enroll by 2020-2021.
While the well-regarded school system has often been referred to as Montgomery County’s biggest selling point, it faces stark and persistent achievement gaps between students from high-income and low-income families.
If selected, Smith would be tasked with narrowing those decades-long gaps while dealing with a constrained budget and a capacity crunch that spurred Bowers last fall to float the ideas of redrawing some school boundaries and reopening closed former schools still owned by the school system.
The board’s decision comes almost exactly a year after former Superintendent Joshua Starr resigned.
At the time, Starr said he resigned once it became clear he didn’t have support from enough board members for a contract extension when his contract ran out later in 2015. Larry Bowers, a longtime administrator in the school system, was named interim superintendent.
Bowers put off his planned retirement in July to remain the interim schools chief for the 2015-2016 school year after Andrew Houlihan, the board’s first choice for replacing Starr took himself out of the running in May.
Unlike the board’s reported selection of Smith, the board announced Houlihan as their “preferred choice” for the position before finalizing the hire. A group of community stakeholders reportedly opposed Houlihan for the job in part because of his lack of experience as a superintendent. After meeting with those stakeholders, Houlihan withdrew his name for the job.