Montgomery County Public Schools Acting Superintendent Monifa McKnight announced several new administrative positions this week, her second major restructuring of the district’s central office in less than a year.
The move was criticized by some community members who said the money needed to hire administrators would be better spent on teachers or other supports for students struggling to bounce back from prolonged school closures. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, McKnight sent a message to the community detailing the new positions, including an assistant superintendent, director of studies, special education liaison, director of operations, chief of communications and senior community counselor. .
MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram said in an interview that salary ranges for the jobs were not yet available, but they were “high-level positions and their salaries will reflect the work required. “.
At least three of the positions previously existed. McKnight was the district’s deputy superintendent before taking over as acting superintendent in June. MCPS also had an Academic Director and an Operations Director until 2020. The last person to serve as Academic Officer 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 Montgomery County Council.
Less than a month after being named acting superintendent, McKnight announced significant changes to MCPS’ central office in July, eliminating some positions, changing some people’s titles and moving others under new leadership.
In his message to the community this week, McKnight said the new changes to admin positions were driven by community feedback in meetings and forums.
During those meetings, McKnight said, people stressed that the district should “refocus” on the program, improve communication (especially with families of students in special education programs), and ensure that Funds are distributed equitably among schools.
“I listened – really listened – as part of my commitment to understanding how to build systems and structures that lead to positive results,” McKnight wrote. “These conversations have made me even more certain that we need to organize our school system to focus more on our top three priorities: engaging stakeholders to build trust; ensure the health and well-being of students; and refocusing on equitable teaching and learning.
Jennifer Martin, president of the county teachers’ union, said on a call with reporters this week that the school district‘s administration growth is “disheartening” when there are staff positions “on the ground “, such as teachers and counselors, who need to be filled and the additional positions needed in the budget.
This year, MCPS has struggled to meet the growing mental health needs of students amid the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. New positions for social workers have not been filled and district leaders have spoken of a shortage of professionals across the country. MCPS counselors and psychologists have testified at school board meetings that they are overwhelmed and unable to adequately support students.
“We’re really concerned when a central office seems to be… having this bloat, and we strive to have enough people to work with the kids on a daily basis,” Martin said.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at [email protected]