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Monifa McKnight will join the faculty of the University of Maryland in August

Former Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight will join the University of Maryland in August as principal and dean of education.

The role is new to the college. In this role, McKnight will advise College of Education staff and focus on core issues affecting public education, including teacher recruitment and retention. She plans to support and grow the college’s partnerships, including with legislators, other university departments, and public and private schools.

“I think one of the best kept secrets about teaching is that it is a beautiful profession that can be so rewarding in so many different ways,” she says. said in an interview last week. “And it’s our job to really get that out there and help our students see that.”

In 2022, McKnight, a veteran educator, became the first woman appointed principal of Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland’s largest school district, with 160,000 students.

As superintendent, she led efforts to conduct an “anti-racist audit” that reviewed the school system’s policies and curricula and oversaw the reopening of in-person classes after the pandemic caused districts to switch to virtual learning. But McKnight stepped down around Two years into a four-year contract, questions have emerged about how the school district handled allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, among other allegations involving a former principal.

Kimberly Griffin, dean of the Faculty of Education, said McKnight’s experience as a teacher and principal made her well-suited for the new position.

“Her knowledge will be instrumental as we generate new ideas to grow and better prepare the teaching force to meet the needs of today’s students and communities,” Griffin said in an email. “She knows education, and more importantly, she knows education in Maryland.”

McKnight had two decades of experience in Montgomery County schools. She was named Maryland Principal of the Year in 2015. She briefly left the school system to join Howard County Public Schools, but returned to Montgomery County in 2019 to serve as deputy under Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith.

Three years later, she was elected to lead the district. As part of her separation agreement with the district, she received $1.3 million. Under that agreement, the board and McKnight are prohibited from making derogatory remarks about each other.

She said the Montgomery role — and the historic nature of her appointment — gave her a unique perspective that she wants to share with others.

“I’ve been able to support others who can make history,” she said. “Anytime something new and different changes, there’s a lot that comes with it. It hasn’t changed who I am — I’m still someone who relies on my foundation of faith, family and education. I’m just grateful that those were able to remain my priorities.”

When asked what she had learned during her time as superintendent, particularly after a law firm report documented senior management mistakes, she pointed to the school system’s corrective action plan. “The plan to address what we had learned was very strong, and I hope the system has continued that.”

Since stepping down from her role as superintendent, she has focused on spending time with her son, a high school senior in Montgomery County. She said the time she has spent with him has been “just amazing.”

But she also had several colleagues in her professional network reach out to her — both formally and informally — seeking her expertise. She thought about what her next step should be and how that role might intersect with “helping others on a broader scale.” It led her to take the job at the University of Maryland. She said her previous experience in both Montgomery and Howard County has given her “kinds of vignettes … that we can use in the university space” to highlight what needs to change and what’s working in the education world.

She graduated from the University of Maryland with a doctorate in education policy and leadership about ten years ago. She also has a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University and a master’s degree from Bowie State University.

McKnight said her new position is a contractual position with the possibility of extension.

“I’m just really proud to be returning to my alma mater and serving in this capacity,” she said.