Maryland school board calls for superintendent’s resignation amid leadership concerns

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight was asked by the school board to “step away” from her role last week, citing “serious problems with her leadership.”

In a…

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight was asked by the school board to “step away” from her role last week, citing “serious problems with her leadership.”

In a statement, McKnight claimed she was provided no explanation for the request and announced her intention to resist the school board’s effort.

“The Board has never written, documented, or communicated any concern about my performance, and through the evaluation process has consistently affirmed that I have met expectations,” McKnight said, according to ABC 7 News. “For these reasons, I’m concerned that its actions are based on something other than my performance, which would constitute a violation of my contract.”

However, the school board says the “problems with her leadership” are obvious to everyone.

“We understand that Dr. McKnight is claiming the board is offering no reasons for this decision,” the Montgomery County Education Association wrote in a press release. “However, we – like the rest of the public – are aware of serious problems with her leadership.

“In the wake of the Washington Post exposé of sexual harassment and bullying by an MCPS principal, new revelations increasingly indicate that the superintendent has been more concerned with protecting herself and her close associates than with doing right by front-line staff and students.” 

In August, the Post published an article alleging the district promoted former principal Dr. Joel Beidleman despite “receiving reports for years alleging misconduct by Beidleman.” 

The investigation unearthed at least 18 verbal or written reports of sexual harassment and bullying from staff, parents and union representatives dating back to 2016. 

MCPS hired Jackson Lewis Law Firm to investigate. The investigation found central office employees interfered with the Beidleman investigation, concealing even more allegations against him. 

Further allegations concluded the district’s Department of Compliance and Investigation Coordinator Khalid Walker was promoted as a bribe to change the internal report regarding Beidleman’s wrongdoing. 

Walker was reassigned to a position within the Office of Human Resources and Development which raised his salary by $11,893 shortly after his report was released, according to the Post. 

In response to the investigation and allegations, McKnight admitted at the time there were several things that needed to be fixed in the district.  

“There are many holes in the system, and we need to fix them, and there needs to be accountability around fixing those holes,” McKnight said during Board of Education meeting on Oct. 12. “There will be some transitions and personnel action that is coming.” 

Following the board’s call for her resignation, McKnight released last week an “Action Plan Update” intended to “improve the investigations and promotions process.” 

On the same day, the board held a closed session meeting and issued the following statement:  

“The Board is aware of Dr. McKnight’s recent statementto the media regarding her employment. The Board continues to fulfill its role as an employer. This is a personnel matter and in alignment with laws related to personnel matters, we, as her employer will not be providing further comment at this time.”