New Administrative Appointments and Vision for the Future of MCPS
Superintendent Jack Smith sent the following email to staff on Monday, Feb. 10.
Just more than four years ago, the Board of Education entrusted me with leading Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Moments after my appointment, I walked across the hall and shared three critical things with members of the media and staff members. First, many MCPS students achieve at the highest academic levels, but not all. Barriers to access, opportunity and resources have led to a persistent gap in academic outcomes between students of color and students impacted by poverty as compared to their White and Asian peers. Second, to close this gap we would need to maintain the highest levels of achievement that our school system is known for and raise to excellence our students who have yet to meet their full potential. Finally, I shared that this is not a simple task. The achievement gap has plagued our nation for more than a half century. However, if it could be done anywhere, it could be done here in Montgomery County.
A little more than three and a half years have passed since I officially became superintendent. During this time, we have leveraged data, expanded access, strengthened what has worked and innovated for equity and excellence. These actions have created a foundation for progress.
Together, we have:
- Expanded access to prekindergarten;
- Increased access to world languages in elementary schools with new two-way immersion programs;
- Removed barriers to elementary and middle school acceleration and enrichment through universal screening;
- Tackled summer learning loss through the launch of innovative calendar schools and new summer learning opportunities;
- Acquired new, culturally competent curriculum that is better aligned with state standards;
- Increased access to rigorous coursework, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;
- Increased career readiness experiences for students;
- Developed the Be Well 365 initiative to focus on the physical, social and psychological well-being of students;
- Provided free access to the SAT, ACT and/or career licensure
- Expanded dual-enrollment opportunities with Montgomery College;
- Launched the All In: Equity and Achievement Framework that provides the purpose, path and plan to ensure success for all students; and
- Commissioned a resource study to understand how we can better allocate resources to achieve equity in student experiences.
I want to emphasize the “we” in this work. What we have accomplished so far is the product of the dedicated work of more than 24,000 teachers, administrators and supporting staff members. I want to recognize specifically the work of my leadership colleagues, Dr. Maria Navarro and Dr. Andrew Zuckerman. They have been, and continue to be, an integral part of this work. As I wrote in my letter in December, both Dr. Navarro and Dr. Zuckerman have shared that they are leaving MCPS at the end of the fiscal year to pursue new opportunities.
While progress has been made in the last three and a half years, there is much more that we must do to meet the needs of our more than 166,000 students. Today, the Board voted to offer me another contract. I am honored to have the Board’s support to continue this progress on behalf of our students.
The operating budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2021, which the Board is scheduled to tentatively adopt today, lays out the vision for our continued efforts to close gaps in access, opportunity and achievement for students. This includes significant investments in ESOL staffing, prekindergarten expansion, innovative equity initiatives, and, of urgent and particular focus, attracting, recruiting and retaining a highly qualified, diverse teaching workforce.
Data show the number of students entering teacher preparation programs has shrunk significantly over the last decade, which makes it harder for our school district to ensure each classroom has a high-quality teacher. Dr. Kimberly Statham, after seven years leading the Office of School Support and Improvement, has stepped forward to take on a new role leading this critical work for our system. As the higher education workforce liaison, Dr. Statham will use her experience leading large school systems on both coasts to visit colleges, develop strong relationships, and recruit the best and brightest students for our teacher workforce. Reporting directly to the deputy superintendent, Dr. Statham will focus on establishing relationships with colleges and universities so that, over time, MCPS will have a pipeline of high-quality teaching candidates that will serve us now and into the future. I thank Dr. Statham for taking on this work.
The upcoming transitions of Drs. Navarro, Statham and Zuckerman means MCPS must re-imagine our leadership structure to strengthen the coordination, communication and collaboration in our schools and offices.
Our vision is to strengthen coordination, collaboration and communication in central office by breaking down silos and more effectively integrating our work. We believe this will make us more efficient and effective in serving our students, staff, schools and community. To achieve this goal, effective July 1, 2020, we are restructuring the organization of our central office.
First, as we prioritize equity in all components of our work in central office and schools, seek out excellence for our students, and focus on recruiting and retention efforts, the Equity Initiatives Unit and the Office of Human Resources and Development will now report directly to the Deputy Superintendent’s Office.
Second, we are bringing together the Office of School Support and Improvement, the Office of the Chief Academic Officer and the Office of Shared Accountability under the umbrella of the new Office of Teaching, Learning and Schools. The merging of these offices under a single chief brings the vision of these two streams of work together and reflects the cross-office collaboration that has been a priority for the last two years when we began integrating instructional specialists from the Office of School Support and Improvement and the Office of the Chief Academic Officer. Dr. Janet Wilson, who currently serves as the associate superintendent for shared accountability, will lead the new office. Dr. Wilson joined MCPS as associate superintendent for shared accountability in 2016. Dr. Wilson has extensive experience in the use of data to inform practices and decision making that result in a positive impact on students. She has been instrumental in the cross-office efforts leading to the creation of our All In: Equity and Achievement Framework. We will also be adding a teaching and learning leadership liaison position to the office to support the work.
Next, as our student population grows and becomes more diverse, we need to innovate how we communicate and engage with all of our stakeholders, from students and staff to businesses and community advocates. To do this, we are combining the Office of Communications, the Office of Employee Engagement and Labor Relations, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the Partnerships Unit under the new Office of Communications, Engagement and Innovation. Mr. Derek Turner, who currently serves as the chief communications officer, will lead this office. Mr. Turner has served the students, staff and families of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for four years—first as the director of public information and web services and most recently as chief communications officer. Before joining MCPS, Derek was the Director of Communications for the Kapor Center for Social Impact, an Oakland-based organization that seeks to make the tech ecosystem and entrepreneurship more diverse, inclusive and impactful.
Finally, under the supervision of the chief of staff, we are bringing together the core operational functions of the system, under a new associate superintendent of operations and associate superintendent of finance. Today, the Board appointed Ms. Essie McGuire, who currently serves as an executive director in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, to serve as the associate superintendent of operations. Ms. McGuire has been employed with MCPS for three and a half years as the executive director to the chief operating officer. Prior to joining MCPS, Essie spent 17 years as an analyst at the Montgomery County Council.
We believe this more integrated structure in the central office will provide a more cohesive and effective experience for our students, schools and stakeholders.
I look forward to our continued work together on behalf of our students.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools