As reports of Montgomery Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s likely departure circulated Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, one key state legislator has already weighed in, thrashing Board of Education members for putting “personal passions” over signs of progress in their refusal to renew Starr’s contract.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), vice-chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee and an important advocate for county school funding, said in Facebook entries this morning that letting Starr go would be a mistake.

“Not sure who will be running MCPS next,” Madaleno wrote. “Our school system is our county’s most important civic enterprise. This is a huge gamble with its future. If the school board cannot decide on the current leadership, how will they agree on a new direction? Who will want the job in these conditions?”

Two people with direct knowledge of board deliberations said Tuesday that four of the eight-member board oppose renewal of Starr’s contract. At least five votes are required for his retention.

Some members disappointed with Starr’s performance have cited a lack of progress in closing academic achievement gaps between white and minority students. Some have also been alienated by Starr’s personal style, which they have found uncommunicative and dismissive when it came to their concerns.

Madaleno called it “ironic” that the board may be firing Starr for lack of progress in closing the achievement gap when new data out this week show gaps in graduation rates between black and white students — and Hispanic and white students — have narrowed on his watch.

“But why should data get in the way of personal passions?” Madaleno wrote.