Dr. McKnight becomes first MCPS female superintendent


Courtesy of MCPSTV

Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight was appointed to the permanent Superintendent position on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

The MCPS Board of Education announced Dr. Monifa McKnight as their final choice in the year-long search for a new superintendent at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

Dr. McKnight was selected out of four final candidates. Over her term as interim superintendent, appointed in July 2021 after Dr. Jack Smith’s retirement, she has pursued progressive reforms, including the expansion of pre-K programs and extending the school year. As the former chief school management and instructional leadership officer in Howard County, she has spent over two decades in public service and education.

Her appointment marks a historic moment for MCPS, as the first female superintendent in the county. 

“She’s always come prepared …  always poised under pressure, thinking quickly, acting with her staff to make … the right decisions,” board member Shebra Evans said. The decision was unanimously voted on and announced in a live meeting, streamed virtually on the county website, with limited in-person attendance for COVID-19 concerns. Dr. McKnight’s husband, children, nephews, mother, aunt, and brothers were all present.

“Many students have experienced unique trauma in the wake of this pandemic, something we’ve never seen before,” Dr. McKnight said, upon her appointment. “It’s also a time where our staff has had to go above and beyond to support student needs, and I thank them for it.”

Board member Karla Silvestre commended Dr. McKnight for her two years of service, noting that the past years had been especially difficult for public education. “These past years have not been without challenges, unique challenges… and I look forward to us all working together to work through what’s coming forwards as we go along,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski said.

Dr. McKnight was considered as a possibility for the position, as the acting interim superintendent, in the months leading up to the 2021 school year. But some speculated that her handling of the pandemic hurt her chances. Dr. McKnight even issued an official apology statement for the board’s handling of the Omicron variant in January.

Many parents and community members, notably the Parents Coalition of Montgomery, have expressed frustration at a lack of transparency in the search. In Fox5, coalition member and county parent Joseph Hawkins described the process as “shrouded in secrecy.”

The county invited parents to various virtual town halls in their “community engagement phase,” which concluded last November. In addition to hosting Community Forums and publicizing the Superintendent Search Survey, the Board also lead focus groups to determine “what characteristics are essential for the next superintendent.” 

Dr. McKnight’s four-year term will begin on July 1, 2022.