Montgomery County Public Schools community reflects on calls for superintendent to resign

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DC News Now) — New calls to oust Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight are being met with pushback after Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in Rockville.

MCPS confirmed the Board’s calls for McKnight’s resignation Monday night, and McKnight said in a statement she would fight their push for her to step away from the role.

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Supporters of McKnight showed up to Tuesday morning’s Board meeting in droves, taking up several rows of seats during the packed meeting on the school system’s budget.

An investigation into her handling of sexual harassment accusations against MCPS employee Joel Biedelman is at the center of these recent calls for her resignation.

He had recently been promoted to principal at Paint Branch High School before he was placed on leave last year.

Some of the allegations against him dated back years before McKnight assumed the role of superintendent in 2022.

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The main point DC News Now heard from her supporters at Tuesday’s meeting was that they feel McKnight “inherited” a bad situation and the board is looking for a scapegoat.

“She had nothing to do with that. She inherited this. Now she’s coming up with remedies to resolve it and resolve the system to make sure it is equitable,” said Henry Hailstock, an Olney resident.

A former MCPS colleague of McKnight, Natalie Thomas, said she came to support her however she could.

“We need to question why [the Board is] at the point where they are now asking for her resignation. I’m not going to let that happen,” she said.

Both Hailstock and Thomas also said they believe McKnight’s race and gender are playing a factor in calls for her resignation.

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Some individuals in the community disagreed. They said that while they were in favor of McKnight being hired as superintendent nearly two years ago, due to several events — including her handling of the situation involving Biedelman — they now would like her to step down.

One man who has three grandchildren in the county said it’s time for drastic changes to be made within the school system.

“I think it’s time to clean house,” Heinz Weverink said. “I think it’s time to look internally to see where we can actually be effective. I think it’s time for teachers to have the ability to feel proud of where they’re working instead of feeling like they’re always working under a shadow.”

As for the board members pushing McKnight to step away, requests for comment have been denied citing ongoing litigation surrounding the Biedelman case.

DC News Now was not able to approach McKnight for an interview after Tuesday’s meeting.

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