More administrators added in MCPS ‘shuffling of central office

Montgomery County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight this week announced several new administrative positions, her second significant restructuring of the district’s central office in less than a year.

The move was met with criticism from some community members who said the money needed to hire the administrators would be better spent on teachers or other support for students who are struggling to rebound after prolonged school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, McKnight sent a message to the community detailing the new positions, including a deputy superintendent, chief academic officer, special education liaison, chief operating officer, chief of communications and senior community adviser.

MCPS spokesman Chris Cram said in an interview that the salary ranges for jobs were not yet available but that they are “high-level positions and their salaries will reflect the work that is required.”

At least three of the positions existed previously. McKnight was the district’s deputy superintendent before she took over the interim superintendency in June. MCPS also had a chief academic officer and chief operating officer until 2020. The last person to hold the academic officer position was Maria Navarro, who resigned in 2020 and is now superintendent of Charles County Public Schools. The last person to serve as chief operating officer was Essie McGuire, who now works for the Montgomery County Council.

Within a month of being appointed the interim superintendent, McKnight in July announced significant changes to the MCPS central office, eliminating some positions, changing some people’s titles, and moving others under new management.

In her message to the community this week, McKnight said the new changes to administrative positions were prompted by feedback from the community during meetings and forums.

During those meetings, McKnight said, people have emphasized the district should “refocus” on curriculum, improve communication (especially with families of students in special education programs), and make sure funds are distributed fairly among schools.

“I have listened — really listened — as part of my commitment to understanding how to build systems and structures that lead to successful outcomes,” McKnight wrote. “These conversations have made me even more certain that we have to organize our school system in a way that increases our focus on our top three priorities — engaging stakeholders to build trust; ensuring student health and well-being; and refocusing on equitable teaching and learning. ”

Jennifer Martin, president of the county’s teachers union, said during a call with reporters this week that growth in the school district’s administration is “dispiriting” when there are “on-the-ground” staff positions, like teachers and counselors, that need to be filled, and additional positions needed in the budget.

MCPS this year has struggled to meet students’ growing mental health needs amid the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. New social worker positions have gone unfilled, and district leaders have cited a shortage of professionals nationwide. MCPS counselors and psychologists have reported at school board meetings that they are overwhelmed and unable to adequately support students.

“We definitely have a concern when a central office appears to be… having this bloat, and we are scrambling to have enough people to work with children on a daily basis,” Martin said.

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

Leave a Comment