As budget hearings begin this week in Maryland’s largest school system, the Montgomery County Board of Education is being led by Michael Durso, a retired high school principal who was tapped last month as the board’s new president.
Durso, who previously served as the board’s vice president, takes the top post on the eight-member board as it heads into another year of budget strain and continues to work on finding a new superintendent.
“I think we have a number of issues before us that are going to demand a lot of time and attention,” Durso said about the months ahead.
The board will hear from the public Thursday as it considers a $2.4 billion operating budget proposed by interim superintendent Larry A. Bowers. Another hearing will be held next week, with a board vote slated for February.
Durso said the budget deliberations could be intense in the months to come amid potential funding shortfalls. Still, he said, “I think the (Montgomery County) council is aware of our needs and will meet those needs as much as they can, with all the other needs the county has.”
As it confronts budget issues, the board also will continue its hunt for a new schools chief. Last February, Montgomery’s previous superintendent, Joshua P. Starr, resigned amid reports that he lacked the votes he needed to win a new four-year contract.
The board’s search for Starr’s replacement faltered in the spring when the only “preferred candidate” withdrew from consideration.
The school board resumed the search in the fall. “The board would like to have it finalized by early spring, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Durso said.
Durso, who joined the board in 2009, had a career in education for more than four decades, including positions as principal at high schools in the District and in Arlington, Va. He took over as principal at Springbrook High School in Montgomery County in 1996, serving there until his retirement in 2009.
He started in December and will serve a one-year term as board president, replacing Patricia O’Neill, the board’s longest-serving member, who completed her fifth term as president.
The board named Judith Docca, who is serving her third board term, as its vice president. Before her retirement, Docca worked for the school system as a teacher and administrator, including positions as assistant principal at Montgomery Blair High School and principal at Argyle Middle School.
Durso and Docca were reelected in November 2014.