2020 | Schools

School board renews superintendent’s contract

MCPS announces administration structure changes

Smith

Superintendent Jack Smith speaks during a school board meeting.

File photo

In a unanimous vote, the Montgomery County school board on Monday agreed to renew Superintendent Jack Smith’s contract for an additional four years.

Smith, 62, was hired in 2016 and his first contract will end on June 30. With the board’s vote on Monday, Smith can remain on as superintendent through June 30, 2024.

At the same time, Smith announced several changes to the MCPS administration structure, including merging several departments into new offices.

The changes come after a December announcement that Chief Operating Officer Andy Zuckerman and Chief Academic Officer Maria Navarro will resign at the end of the school year.

Under the new structure, the school district will consolidate three offices — School Support and Improvement; the Chief Academic Officer; and Shared Accountability — into a new Office of Teaching, Learning and Schools.

Janet Wilson, currently associate superintendent of shared accountability, was appointed to oversee the department.

The school district’s Office of Communications, Office of Employee Engagement and Labor Relations, Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the Partnerships Unit will merge into a new department: the Office of Communications, Engagement and Innovation.

Derek Turner, now the MCPS chief communications officer, will head the department.

Essie McGuire, who is now the executive director of the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, was appointed as the school district’s associate superintendent of operations and will oversee “core operational functions of the system.”

The MCPS Equity Initiatives Unit and Office of Human Resources will now report directly to Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight.

“We believe this more integrated structure in the central office will provide a more cohesive and effective experience for our students, schools and stakeholders,” Smith said.

Smith lauded Navarro’s and Zuckerman’s work since he was hired as superintendent. He said they, among others, helped stimulate “much progress” over the past three years.

“When I came in, I didn’t do what most big city superintendents do, which is take out all of the upper management of the school system,” Smith said. “Had I made that error at that time, you probably wouldn’t be voting to keep me here because we would have had two or three years of chaos.”

Additionally, Kim Statham will move into a new role as the school district’s higher education workforce liaison. In her new role, Statham will travel the country recruiting teachers to MCPS. Statham is currently chief of the MCPS Office of School Support and Improvement.

“She will gather information about institutions of higher education and the hundreds of thousands of students going to them, and we will aggressively go after those individuals to come here and stay here,” Smith said. “She will develop strong relationships with and recruit the brightest … students into our workforce.”

MCPS Chief Financial Officer Nicola Diamond resigned last month. Her replacement has not been hired.

Smith first publicly said in December that he wanted to continue working as superintendent. Shortly after, all eight members of the school board told Bethesda Beat they supported renewing his contract.

On Monday, Smith thanked board members for their support and vowed to continue his work to close an achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

“It is with great humility and humbleness I thank the board for its support,” Smith said. “I certainly will do everything in my power to maintain and increase excellence for all students.”

The parameters of his new contract remain under negotiation, so the details were not available Monday.

Under his current contract, Smith receives a $290,000 annual salary and 25 days of leave and 20 days of sick leave each year.

The district provides Smith with a vehicle he can use for business and personal use, with all associated expenses paid by MCPS.

Prior to MCPS, Smith served as interim state superintendent and the State Department of Education’s chief academic officer. He spent eight years as superintendent of Calvert County Schools and six years teaching in Japan.

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