Smith, 62, took the helm of the state’s largest school system in 2016. He announced his interest in staying on in December, just before the holiday break, and a majority of the school board told The Washington Post at the time that they favored his reappointment.
“We have made progress around eliminating disparities in academic achievement, and so we want to have him to continue that work,” Shebra Evans, president of the school board, told reporters.
Financial terms for a new contract, which would start July 1, are under negotiation and could be approved by the board in the coming weeks. Smith’s base pay is $290,000 a year — a little less than some schools chiefs in the Washington region and a little more than others.
School board members have credited Smith for a string of efforts in Montgomery, including an expansion of access to prekindergarten, more language programs and improvements in career education.
They also have cited an initiative to lengthen the school year at two high-needs elementary schools and an online “equity accountability” system that allows a detailed school-by-school look at student achievement by race and poverty.
Board member Karla Silvestre (At Large) cited areas of academic progress and said that while more work needs to be done, Smith has demonstrated “he is moving the needle in some critical areas.”
But in a sign of tension between the school system’s leadership and its educators, the teachers union in Montgomery expressed disappointment that board members voted to retain Smith.
“While the superintendent has collected a lot of data, he has put forward no coherent plan to move the system forward,” said Christopher Lloyd, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents more than 14,000 teachers, counselors and other educators.
Lloyd said discontent with Smith has been on the rise. Labor contract negotiations are underway, but Lloyd said the issue is larger than that.
“Teachers feel like their voice doesn’t matter, that the superintendent doesn’t give them the resources they need to do their jobs effectively, and that he’s blamed them for the problems of the system,” he said.
School officials said they had no comment on the assertions.
Two well-known community leaders who advocate for African American and Hispanic students have previously expressed support for Smith, as did a former president of the countywide council of parent-teacher associations.
Before arriving in Montgomery, Smith was interim state superintendent of schools in Maryland and a superintendent in Southern Maryland’s Calvert County. He is a career educator who once was a teacher and principal and worked overseas.
In brief remarks after the school board vote, Smith said he was proud to serve a school system that was focused on areas of importance highlighted by state officials. “I’m very humbled and pleased to continue,” Smith said.
In a letter to employees Monday, Smith credited the school system’s workforce of more than 24,000 for what the district has achieved during the past several years.
As Smith looks ahead, the 165,000-student system is embroiled in a debate about the possibility of redrawing school boundaries. No countywide plan has been offered, but a broad analysis of attendance zones is being conducted for the first time in decades.
Smith has also led the school system — to mixed reviews — as it has reeled from a sexual assault case involving football players at Damascus High School who attacked their teammates in a locker room in 2018.
Last week, a civil suit was filed, alleging that school officials ignored warnings about a ritual at Damascus High known as “brooming” while placing outsize importance on the celebrated football program.