MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — A little more than a week after the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) said the board of education asked her to step away from her role, she did.
The Montgomery County Board of Education said Friday that it and Monifa McKnight “mutually agreed to separate.” The decision was effective immediately.
In a statement, the board said, in part: “The Board is grateful to Dr. McKnight for her many years of service to MCPS and public education. We wish her well in her next chapter. The Board will work together with staff to ensure a smooth transition.”
McKnight, who previously served as the school district’s interim and deputy superintendent, said she was concerned that the board’s actions were based on something other than her performance, which she stated would constitute a violation of her contract.
MCPS found itself at the center of controversy after an investigation by the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) employee Joel Beidleman “engaged in misconduct” while he was serving as the principal of Farquhar Middle School.
OIG and outside law firms said they found flaws in the school district’s policies and procedures when it came to reporting and responding to allegations of misconduct against school system employees. OIG still was working on a report concerning the process and potential issues and areas for improvement.
McKnight released her own statement Friday that said, in part: “I have felt over the past several months, there has been a distraction. When the focus is no longer on whom I have agreed to serve, I must control my own fate. I have also maintained that it is critical that my reputation remains grounded in facts and truth. Effective today, after careful reflection, prayer, and willingness to demand fairness, I have reached a mutually agreed separation with the Board of Education.”
The Montgomery County Board of Education said it would begin its search for a new superintendent and planned to name an interim superintendent to lead the school system on Feb. 6. Prior to that, Brian Hull, Chief Operating Officer, was to serve as acting superintendent.
McKnight’s contract was good through 2026 at an annual salary of $320,000. The terms of the separation agreement have not been made public.
Montgomery County Executive, Marc Elrich, said the board needs to answer the public.
“You cannot forever not say why you asked for a resignation,” Elrich said.
He said McKnight’s departure still leaves questions.
“I do think the public needs to know who did what. I mean, somebody obviously made the decision to go forward with his promotion. Who did that and who knew about it?” he continued.
Elrich said he appreciated McKnight’s service, enjoyed working with her and wished her well.
“I appreciate that the board said that they have to rebuild trust. I want to be clear about this. Rebuilding trust is not going to be as simple as replacing the superintendent,” Elrich said.
He took issue with the fact that the board is only part-time, saying he wants to see the board strengthened.
“They ought to have staff because, without staff, the only information they’re ever going to get is the information that comes from the administration,” Elrich said. “There’s not much point in having an oversight if the only information they’re going to get is what comes from the administration.”