Montgomery Co. public schools name longtime Virginia school administrator new superintendent - WTOP News (2024)

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Montgomery Co. public schools name longtime Virginia school administrator new superintendent - WTOP News (1)

Montgomery County Public Schools has announced a new superintendent for Maryland’s largest school system.

Thomas Taylor, who most recently served as superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools in Virginia, will serve as the new school chief, officials announced during a news conference Monday.

The decision comes after a national search that consisted of community forums, focus groups and a districtwide survey, among other outreach intended to collect local input.

Taylor will be formally appointed at the Montgomery County Board of Education’s regularly scheduled June 25 business meeting, according to officials.

‘Not here to bring a wrecking ball’

During the news conference Monday, Montgomery County Board of Education President Karla Silvestre pointed to Taylor’s long resume of school leadership and expertise on school policy as well as a background in finance.

“This unique marriage of an instructional leader with deep understanding of school finance is a powerful combination in a school leader,” Silvestre said.

Taylor has more than 25 years of experience in education, with about 12 years of district-level leadership and six as a superintendent. For his performance in Stafford County, he was named the 2024 Virginia Region III Superintendent of the Year.

In his previous role, Taylor oversaw the construction of three new schools, launched a strategic plan for the district and established two partnerships with the JED Foundation to implement direct mental health support for students, according to a news release from Stafford County Public Schools.

Before receiving his doctoral degree in education from the University of Virginia, Taylor earned a Master of Business Administration from the College of William and Mary.

As superintendent, Taylor will oversee a more than $3 billion operating budget. When asked about how he will approach handling the district’s finances since he comes from a smaller district, Taylor said he believes his previous experience — including as interim chief financial officer of Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia — is “scalable.”

“In building a budget, the fundamentals don’t change despite the size, and it is something that I’m actually looking forward to,” he said.

In addition to his professional history, Taylor has personal ties to the school district — he was educated in Montgomery County Public Schools from kindergarten through his senior year of high school, he shared Monday.

“I’m really excited to get reacquainted with our community and to make new relationships,” Taylor said. “I’m confident that you will see and hear from me a lot, but please know that you can always count on me to do a lot of listening.”

In his remarks Monday, Taylor stressed his intent to focus on collaboration, campus safety and student equity across the district, noting that “the experience of some students in Gaithersburg is wildly different than the experience of some students in Potomac.”

Taylor, who made local headlines in January as the head of Stafford County Public Schools when he posted a rap video announcing that district’s first snow day of the year, emphasized his desire to foster a campus culture built on values like “mutual respect and innovation.”

“I’m not here to bring a wrecking ball to anything, but rather to preserve that which is already working and enhance those areas that need improvement,” he said.

Changes in MCPS leadership

Monday’s announcement follows the contentious resignation of former superintendent Monifa McKnight in February 2024.

McKnight was about two years into her four-year contract when she announced her departure. She left amid controversy over the school system’s handling of sexual harassment and bullying allegations against former Farquhar Middle School Principal Joel Beidleman, who was promoted under her leadership.

McKnight received $1.3 million as part of a separation agreement with the district and agreed not to sue the school board.

Interim superintendent Monique Felder remained in the position following McKnight’s departure and will transition out of the position in the coming weeks.

When asked Monday about how he plans to approach allegations of misconduct, Taylor said the district must “take everything very seriously” and pay close attention to how such issues come about.

Jawando reacts

Montgomery County Council member and Chair of the Education and Culture Committee Will Jawando told WTOP that Taylor’s clearly committed to education.

Jawando got a chance to meet Taylor on Monday, ahead of the announcement of his selection by the school board.

Regarding Taylor, Jawando said, “His background with an MBA is something that I think will be positive with budgets. It seems that he’s been in diverse school districts before, though not of this size.” But, Jawando added, “Very few school districts are this size.”

Montgomery County has the largest public school district in Maryland.

Jawando said that MCPS provides a lot of challenges, including around the issue of equity.

“Nearly half of our students are on free and reduced lunch, a marker for poverty, (and) special education has skyrocketed in recent years,” and students continue to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, said Jawando.

Regarding the turmoil of the past year, in which former Superintendent Monifa McKnight resigned after criticism of her performance, including her handling of the investigation into a principal accused of sexual harassment,Jawando said of McKnight: “I think a lot was laid at her feet. She was superintendent during one of the most difficult times ever to be in education.”

When McKnight was appointed, it represented a history-making move for the county school system. McKnight was the first woman to serve as superintendent, and the first African American woman to hold the job.

“I’m sure that Dr. Thomas is dedicated to the work, understands who we are in Montgomery County and understands that equity is paramount, and that every student needs opportunity,” Jawando said.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich echoed Jawando’s sentiment in a statement where he said, “Dr. Taylor … joins us at a time when our schools face significant challenges, particularly with transparency, funding and class sizes. We welcome Dr. Taylor’s energy and engagement, and I think we all understand the urgency of the situation.”

“I would have liked to have seen us not have as much transition as we’ve had over the past several years, but I’m looking for someone to steady the ship and to work with us, the school board and with the community to make sure that every student has what they need,” Jawando added.

When asked if the speed with which the school board moved raised any questions in his mind, Jawando said, “You can always have more community engagement. … I’m not going to second-guess their decision, they’re the ones that were in the interviews and spoke to the candidates and felt that this was the right choice.”

WTOP’s Ivy Lyons and Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

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Montgomery Co. public schools name longtime Virginia school administrator new superintendent - WTOP News (9)

Montgomery Co. public schools name longtime Virginia school administrator new superintendent - WTOP News (2024)
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