MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith announced his retirement last Thursday, citing his family as the reason behind the move.
“For more than 18 months, my wife has lived in New England and taken care of my two-year-old grandson, who has had significant health problems and had major heart surgery. My family needs to be together,” said Smith.
His departure comes at a tumultuous time in MCPS history. The district’s 160,000+ students haven’t been in classrooms since March of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The county’s Board of Education will be responsible for making the final decision on who Smith’s successor will be. In the past, the board has hired outside firms to aid in their search and could do so again, board members say.
Patricia O’Neill has served on the school board since 1998, so it’s not her first time searching for a new superintendent. In an interview with WDVM on Monday, she said it’s not a process she takes lightly.
“It’s the most important decision a Board of Education makes,” said O’Neill of finding and confirming a superintendent.
Maryland law makes things tricky, though. O’Neill explained that if the board doesn’t find a replacement superintendent by June, it could be a while before MCPS sees a permanent leadership change.
“Under Maryland law, you must have a superintendent in place by July 1 for the next year, or you have to have an interim,” said O’Neill.
That means if no permanent candidate is chosen by the end of June, that interim superintendent could serve through Summer 2022.
On Monday, board president Brenda Wolff also spoke with WDVM. She said the board has not had the chance to convene since Smith made his announcement, adding that the board will start formal discussions about the search and first steps this week.
When it comes to picking someone to fill the position, she says there’s one quality all board members should keep in mind.
“We need somebody who, in my mind, is interested in making sure that each and every student is getting what they need and deserve from this system,” said Wolff.
Whoever fills the superintendent job will likely get a pretty hefty paycheck to go with the new title. Smith makes $315,000 a year, just one year into his second four-year contract.