Monifa McKnight, Montgomery Co. Public Schools part ways

Less than two weeks after Montgomery County’s school superintendent said she’d fight to remain in her job, she’s stepped down. WTOP's Kate Ryan reports. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Montgomery County Public Schools and Superintendent Monifa McKnight have parted ways.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight said in a statement members of the school board have asked her to "step away" from the job, but she said she's fighting to stay in the role.(WTOP/Kate Ryan)

The Board of Education held a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon.

Last week, McKnight said in a statement that Board of Education members indicated they wanted her to “step away” from her job as superintendent. She said there wasn’t any justification for the request.

In a statement, MCPS said the board and McKnight had “mutually agreed to separate” effective Friday.

“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,” the board said.

In her own statement after the news broke, McKnight said that “things change” in life.

“And I have lived long enough to understand that. But I am aware of ‘My Why,’ and that must be focused on the students and those who serve them. 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.”

Brian Hull, chief operating officer, has been named acting superintendent.

In its own statement, the Montgomery County Council credited McKnight with leading “through critical and difficult times, overseeing one of the nation’s largest school systems in the unprecedented aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The council said it “respects” the decision to separate.

“While the Council has no official role in the selection of a superintendent, we encourage the Board of Education to provide regular public updates as it navigates this leadership change.”

Will Jawando, chair of the Montgomery County Council Committee on Education, told WTOP: “There’s some relief in the sense that you don’t want these things to drag out.”

“I put my kids on the bus every day, so many parents do, and they want their kids to show up to schools that are prepared to receive them with teachers who are supported and have what they need so kids can learn.”

The action comes after the school system’s handling of allegations of bullying and sexual harassment were criticized in two reports from the county’s Office of the Inspector General. The most recent report found that the school system had numerous deficiencies in how it handled complaints about employee misconduct, and that the school system had been made aware of the problems, but “failed to implement appropriate corrective actions.”

The IG’s reports were triggered after allegations that a former middle school principal had sexually harassed and bullied staff were made public in a Washington Post story in August. That principal, Joel Beidleman, had been placed on administrative leave during the investigations.

The school district said that Beidleman was no longer employed by the system as of Jan. 24.

In response to the school board asking her to “step away,” McKnight said she would “defend my reputation” and that she would “demand” that any considerations regarding her role as schools chief through a “fair, legitimate, and legal process.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, the Montgomery County NAACP issued a letter to the Board of Education to voice support for McKnight. In its letter, the NAACP called on the school board to “honor their contractual commitments and demonstrate steadfast backing for Superintendent McKnight.”

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up