Montgomery County Public Schools

Montgomery County School Board Picks 1st Woman Superintendent

"I plan to place my focus on understanding the educational needs and interests of students and teachers, while prioritizing the safety and well-being of everyone in our school community"

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Montgomery County Public Schools are set to have a new leader. 

The school board unanimously voted Tuesday to appoint Dr. Monifa McKnight as superintendent. McKnight, who is serving as interim superintendent, would be the first woman and second person of color in the role, the school district said. 

McKnight got a standing ovation and fought tears as she spoke. 

“It is emotional because I do not take this responsibility lightly. I care for the kids in the school system as I do for my own,” she said, with members of her own family in the room.

McKnight will take the position on July 1 pending contract negotiations and approval by the state superintendent of schools. 

She is the right pick to lead the school district, school board president Brenda Wolff said in a statement. 

“With her long and distinguished record serving the MCPS community, Dr. McKnight is uniquely qualified to lead the district during this time,” she said. “She intimately understands the challenges our community faces and believes deeply in the limitless potential of our students and educators.” 

Wolff noted that the board appointed McKnight in the county’s first high school for Black children. 

Former Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith retired last summer after leading MCPS since 2016

McKnight said she was honored to be selected for the position after a national search and a community engagement process. 

“This is a moment that calls for leading with empathy while in pursuit of academic excellence. I plan to place my focus on understanding the educational needs and interests of students and teachers, while prioritizing the safety and well-being of everyone in our school community,” she said in a statement. 

McKnight is a former teacher, principal and district administrator. She joined MCPS in 2001 and holds degrees from Bowie State University and the University of Maryland. 

She took over as interim superintendent in March 2021 and oversaw the return to full-time in-person learning in the fall. Some schools closed as they faced a spike in COVID cases during the omicron surge. 

Some parents criticized MCPS for mixed messages and confusion as COVID cases soared to more than 10,000 after the winter break. McKnight previously apologized and on Tuesday vowed to restore trust. 

She also vowed to address social issues in the school system, including violence. A student is accused of shooting and wounding another student inside Magruder High School last month. 

The Montgomery County Education Association issued a no-confidence vote in MCPS leadership last month, citing concerns over staffing shortages, student absences and a lack of transparent communication. In a statement Tuesday, the union congratulated McKnight and promised to work with her to improve working conditions.

McKnight is expected to sign a four-year contract.

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