Maryland officials tapped a former schools chief on the Eastern Shore for the state’s top education post Tuesday, ending a national search that started in January.
Karen B. Salmon, who joined state government in August and is acting deputy state superintendent for school effectiveness in Maryland, is expected to take over as state superintendent of schools on July 1.
The Maryland State Board of Education unanimously approved the selection at its meeting Tuesday. Salmon was chosen from among several dozen candidates, officials said.
“Dr. Salmon knows our State, understands our challenges, and has a track record of developing effective solutions to educational issues through collaboration,” Guffrie M. Smith Jr., the board’s president, said in a statement.
The appointment comes four months after the state launched a search to replace its previous state superintendent, Lillian M. Lowery, who left Maryland in September to lead FutureReady Columbus, an education nonprofit in Ohio.
Lowery was hired during the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and her exit followed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s election. State officials have said Lowery did not leave because of political pressure.
Jack Smith, previously the state’s chief academic officer, stepped into the top job on an interim basis following Lowery’s departure. Smith was selected as the next superintendent in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest school system, in February. He starts there on July 1.
Though Salmon began her state-level job less than a year ago, she was superintendent in Talbot County, on the Eastern Shore, for a decade, and has worked as a Maryland educator for more than 30 years. She also was superintendent for two years in Bay Shore, N.Y.
“I am committed to collaborating with all of our stakeholders to ensure a world-class education for every Maryland public school student,” Salmon said in a statement. “I want to build on Maryland’s past accomplishments, streamline programs at the Maryland State Department of Education, and articulate a shared vision for educational excellence.”
Responding to the choice, Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said teachers look forward to working with Salmon to improve resource equity, close opportunity gaps and reduce standardized testing.
“We hope that Dr. Salmon will serve as an independent, apolitical voice for research-based solutions that help all students,” Weller said in a statement.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said that he knows little about Salmon’s tenure in Talbot or about her philosophy but that Salmon was “informed and clear in her answers” when she appeared before the Senate education committee this year.
Salmon takes the helm during a difficult stretch that includes the loss of a number of key staffers, he said. “It’s a very transitional time,” Pinsky said. “I think she will have some rebuilding to do of the department, and she has to build a relationship with the new current board.”
As the Maryland board began its search for a new schools leader, several state lawmakers led a failed effort to allow the legislature to have a say in the choice of Maryland’s schools chief.
Pinsky, lead sponsor of the bill, said at the time that the state superintendent has a “trickle effect” on local school policy.
He said he worried about the direction the state education system could take under Hogan, who has appointed six members to the state board, several of whom embrace nontraditional education policies.
The Democratic-controlled legislature has raised some concerns about several education proposals Hogan has pushed, including a bill last year that would have given charter schools greater authority and allowed the state board to authorize charters in local school districts.