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Longest-serving schools chief weighs in on superintendent’s abrupt decision to depart

Jack Hogan//September 15, 2023

Longest-serving schools chief weighs in on superintendent’s abrupt decision to depart

By Jack Hogan

//September 15, 2023

Maryland School Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury announced he would not seek a second term on Friday. (Submitted photo)
Maryland School Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury announced he would not seek a second term on Friday. (Submitted photo)

Following Maryland state schools Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury’s abrupt decision Friday to withdraw from consideration for another term amid controversy about his leadership, a former superintendent said that a second term would have inhibited progress for public education.

“I believe the current superintendent made a good decision,” Nancy Grasmick, who retired in 2011 as the nation’s longest-serving appointed schools chief, said in a phone interview. “When you have so many issues that have surfaced, it’s very difficult to keep the focus on the work that has to be done.”

Grasmick, who was Maryland’s schools superintendent from 1991 to 2011 and oversaw nation-leading growth in student performance during her tenure, said the breadth of the criticisms against Choudhury highlighted a need for change.

Choudhry, whom the state hired two years ago from Texas, had been under fire for creating a toxic work environment and failing to work effectively with state legislators and education officials, according to multiple news reports.

His pending departure comes at a time when the state is seeking to transform its public education systems and increase annual school funding by $3.8 billion over 10 years.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education plan has contributed to projected structural deficits in the coming years that are expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2027, raising questions about whether the state will place more onus on counties to pay for the plan.

Choudhury’s contract expires on June 30, 2024, though a joint statement from the superintendent and the State Board of Education didn’t indicate whether he’ll remain in the role until then.

“During the remainder of his tenure, the superintendent will work with the state board and other stakeholders to continue the critical work of leading education transformation in Maryland,” Choudhury and the State Board of Education said in the joint statement.

Both Choudhury and the board declined in the statement to provide additional comments.

The board is expected to present transition plans and details for a national search for Choudhury’s replacement by its Sept. 26 meeting.

Former Marland Schools Superintendent said that current superintendent Mohammed Choudhury “made a good decision” in not seeking a second term.

Grasmick said the board must select a superintendent who — like she and her staff did — sees themselves as a “disciple” in meeting the needs of students, parents, teachers, administrators, state lawmakers and others.

“I had an amazing staff of people who could have gone to many other jobs with their talents,” Grasmick said. “But, getting less pay, they chose to stay there because there was a huge sense of team.

“Sometimes we look at paper, we look at credentials. But there are also human qualities that are important to maximizing those credentials,” she said.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, who declined to say publicly whether he felt the board should renew the superintendent’s contract, thanked Choudhury for leading the State Department of Education during the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing the initial phase of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, setting “our students and educators up for success.”

“As MSDE looks for our next superintendent, I expect the board to ensure we find an exceptional leader who will commit to transparency, accountability, and partnership with all stakeholders to improve education outcomes in every corner of Maryland,” Moore, a Democrat, said in a statement Friday.

Republican leaders in the state Senate, meanwhile, openly disapproved of Choudhury’s leadership.

“It was clear that Choudhury was not the right person to lead Maryland’s Public Schools system,” Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey and Minority Whip Justin Ready said in a statement. “His management style as well as his lack of transparency and accessibility were extremely concerning.”

Grasmick said that being transparent with the news media helped her build trust as the superintendent. Her team, for instance, would invite journalists to hear about confidential reports about statewide test results before they were released to the public.

“We wanted to be sure that when they were released by the media, that the media had a deep understanding of the data and a chance to ask questions,” she said. “And we trusted them.”


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