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Montgomery County School Board Seeks Superintendent’s Departure, Sparking Uncertainty

Monifa B. McKnight, the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, revealed on Monday that school board officers had recently expressed their desire for her to step down from her role, creating turmoil and uncertainty within Maryland’s largest school system.

Board’s Request and Lack of Justification

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McKnight disclosed that the school board had made this request without providing any justification for their decision.

In response, she pledged to defend her reputation and expressed concerns that the board’s actions might be motivated by factors other than her performance, potentially violating her contract.

Reasons Behind the Request Unclear

The exact reasons behind the school board’s request remain unclear, and the matter was discussed during a closed session on Monday evening, where legal advice concerning a personnel issue was sought.

Board’s Response

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In response to McKnight’s statement, the school board issued a statement of its own, emphasizing that it is a personnel matter and, in accordance with laws related to personnel issues, declined to provide further comments at this time.

McKnight’s Current Status

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As of now, McKnight remains actively engaged in her role as superintendent, according to schools spokesman Chris Cram.


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This development comes as Montgomery County enters its upcoming budget season and grapples with questions about how system leaders handled allegations of misconduct involving a former middle school principal.

McKnight’s Appointment and Contract

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McKnight was appointed as the Superintendent of Montgomery County schools in February 2022, following her interim leadership stint during the previous summer.

She made history as the first woman and second African American to lead the district.

Her contract extends until June 30, 2026, with an annual base salary of $320,000, making her one of Maryland’s highest-paid school leaders.

Removal of Superintendents under Maryland Law

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Maryland law allows county school boards to remove superintendents from office before the end of their terms for various reasons, including immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency, or willful neglect of duty.

The law also mandates that boards provide superintendents with documented reasons for removal and offer a hearing within 10 days.

Ongoing Scrutiny of Misconduct Handling

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Since August, the school system has faced scrutiny for its handling of misconduct complaints, particularly in the wake of an investigation by The Washington Post.

This investigation exposed complaints from educators alleging that former Farquhar Middle School Principal Joel Beidleman sexually harassed, bullied, and retaliated against them.

Beidleman was promoted to principal of Paint Branch High School while the investigation was ongoing.

Inspector General’s Findings

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A report from the county’s inspector general in December found that Beidleman had violated the school system’s sexual harassment and bullying policies.

Beidleman has been on administrative leave since August, and his salary ceased on December 18.

The inspector general’s office is currently conducting a second inquiry into the school system’s handling of misconduct complaints.

Questions Surrounding McKnight’s Knowledge

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Some community members have raised questions about whether Superintendent McKnight was aware of the misconduct complaints.

During a County Council hearing in September, she stated that she was not aware of an internal investigation against Dr. Joel Beidleman at the time of his promotion.

Corrective Action Plan

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Earlier on Monday, McKnight’s team released an update on a corrective action plan.

This plan includes provisions such as making candidates ineligible for promotion during an active investigation and implementing a more rigorous background check process for employees.

McKnight’s Background

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Before becoming the superintendent, McKnight served as a deputy under Superintendent Jack R. Smith.

Her rise to the top position was widely anticipated when Smith retired.

She had also previously worked as a middle school principal in the school system and was named Maryland Principal of the Year in 2015.

After briefly leaving the district, she returned in 2019 as deputy superintendent.

McKnight’s Response and Next Steps

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Jason Downs, an attorney representing McKnight, stated that she was taken aback by the school board’s request and has not been informed of any hearings.

For now, she intends to continue her role as superintendent.

The process and what follows are now in the hands of the county school board.

Demand for a Fair and Legal Process

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In her statement earlier on Monday, McKnight asserted her demand for any considerations regarding her role as superintendent to be conducted through a fair, legitimate, and legal process.

Teacher’s Union’s Perspective

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The Montgomery County Education Association, the teacher’s union, accused McKnight of prioritizing her interests and associations over the welfare of front-line staff and students.

The union suggested that the board’s decision may have been influenced by confidential information and warned that McKnight’s actions could further damage her future and the board’s efforts to rebuild public trust in Montgomery County Public Schools.

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