In letter sent to Md. State Board of Education, superintendent seeks another term

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury submitted a letter of intent to seek another term, the state Board of Education confirmed.

Saturday marked the deadline for Choudhury to inform the board whether he wanted to remain as the public schools leader.

Choudhury, who’s been superintendent since July 2021 after replacing Karen Salmon, has publicly stated he would like to continue his work on major education initiatives such as the multi-billion-dollar Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

During a discussion on school performance at Tuesday’s board meeting, Choudhury had a succinct and future message for employees. Choudhury, whose contract expires in June 2024, said certain employees haven’t visited a school in Baltimore that’s about five minutes away from the state Department of Education building.

“That’s going to change,” he said. “We should be hanging out in the school and helping [students and staff] and supporting them.”

According to board governance updated in April, the board will consider Choudhury’s contract in executive session at its regularly scheduled July meeting on July 25. Afterward, the board will notify the superintendent of its decision in writing within one week “to the extent possible.”

Five new board members will join the board this month and decide whether to award Choudhury a new contract with a four-year term. He’s serving a current, three-year term because the state board approved a contract extension for Salmon as she led the state’s public schools response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the board approves a contract for Choudhury, he could serve the longest tenure as superintendent since former superintendent Nancy Grasmick, who served for 20 years until she retired in June 2011.

But Choudhury has faced some criticism for his leadership style and lack of collaboration with some lawmakers and advocates.

Miscommunication between the state Department of Education and the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which the legislature approved to oversee the education reform plan, became public when department officials needed more time to offer recommendations on the 24 local school system Blueprint plans.

Some local officials said it’s created duplicate work and a “two-step process” for both agencies to receive the same documents. The Blueprint board could’ve approved plans in May, but is now scheduled to start that process July 20.

“As we move into the next round of submissions, we respectfully request that the department and AIB work hand-in-hand in the plan review process,” Derek Simmons, superintendent of Caroline County public schools, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It is imperative to iron out perceived areas of overlap that leaves local school systems feeling stuck in the middle.”

Meanwhile, Choudhury does have support from state board president Clarence Crawford, who said in an interview Thursday the superintendent led an effort to cut the department’s vacancy rate by more than half. The department noted vacancies are down to 96, compared to an all-time high of 258 last year.

“Has the superintendent been perfect in everything he has done? Absolutely not, but I think he is learning. We are all learning,” Crawford said. “We are making good progress and I think we will be in good shape.”

Lori Morrow, who served her last day Friday as the parent representative on the state Board of Education, said Choudhury presents a unique perspective on analyzing data and is committed to trying to improve student achievement for English language learners and special education students, among others.

He came to Maryland after working as associate superintendent of strategy, talent and innovation at the San Antonio Independent School District in Texas, where he became nationally known for his efforts on economic integration of schools.

“We hired him as somebody who was going to transform education [and] was coming outside of Maryland. I still support that,” Morrow said. “I still think he’s the right person at this time to make the changes that we need.”

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