Starr Lacks School Board Majority for Renewal of Contract, Sources Say

The four votes against superintendent are said to be solid


Published:

Superintendent Joshua Starr delivers his state of the schools speech in November 2014.

UPDATE - 11:30 p.m. - School Superintendent Joshua Starr, who was hired to run the 154,000 student system in 2011, currently lacks the necessary majority of the county Board of Education to secure a four-year renewal of his contract, sources told Bethesda Beat Tuesday night.

By state law, Starr must inform the board by Feb. 1 if he wants to pursue a renewal of his contract, with the board then having until March 1 to render a decision. While Starr’s next step remained unclear late Tuesday, sources said Starr allies have reached out in recent days to a number of influential figures in the county, in an apparent effort to turn a majority of the board in Starr’s favor.

While most school board members have declined to comment publicly on the situation in recent days, knowledgeable sources indicated that four board members – Judith Docca (District 1), Michael Durso (District 5), Jill Ortman-Fouse (at-large), and Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2) – are prepared to vote against granting Starr a second four-year contract.

While no vote has been taken on the matter, these members are said to be firm in their position. A closed meeting of the full board to discuss personnel matters, originally slated for Tuesday, has been rescheduled for Wednesday.

The news of Starr’s precarious position was first reported by The Washington Post in an editorial Tuesday evening on the newspaper’s website. Citing sources, the Post editorial says that Starr “has been advised to pursue not renewal but rather conditions for his departure.”

Board President Patricia O’Neill (District 3) and board member Christopher Barclay were quoted in the Gazette newspapers last week as saying they were prepared to vote to give Starr another term. Also said to be in Starr’s camp is at-large member Philip Kauffman and the student member of the board, Dahlia Huh, a senior at Clarksburg High School. If this breakdown holds up, it would produce a 4-4 tie vote – short of the bare majority needed to renew Starr’s contract.

In an episode that clearly upset some Montgomery County board members, Starr allowed himself to be considered for the chancellor of New York City public schools in 2013. The job went to another candidate.  

But what ultimately may be the biggest factor in Starr’s loss of support is the sense among some board members that action to address well-defined problems was too slow in coming.

“Dr. Starr went on a yearlong listening tour that we were told would help him assess the state of the MCPS instructional program. However, it is unclear what he learned and what he’s done in response to his learning,” Jeanette Dixon, a former high school and middle school principal in the Montgomery County school system, said in an open letter last week. Her letter reflected some of the private criticism leveled at Starr from within the Board of Education in recent months.

In a statement released in reaction to the Post editorial, O’Neill said “As is our statutory responsibility, the Board is discussing the renewal of the Superintendent’s contract. Because this is a personnel matter, these deliberations are confidential."

 

Back to Bethesda Beat

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

School Notes: Kensington School Wins New Fitness Center, Visit from ‘Body By Jake’ Guru

Plus: New app available for school news; public invited to weigh in on universal pre-kindergarten

Lawsuit Claims Teen Died After Gaithersburg High Gym Teacher Denied Request for Inhaler

Mother of student accuses Montgomery County school officials of negligence

Minimum Wage Study Authors Estimate Job-Loss Figure Will Be Cut in Half After Error Fixed

Firm said it used wrong number from business-owner survey responses, causing inflation

Jealous Campaign Walks Back Claim of Booker Endorsement

Gubernatorial candidate told crowd this week that he would ‘roll out’ senator’s endorsement next month
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »

Stately Residence on Large Lot

Bethesda, $2,595,000

Charming Colonial

Potomac, $1,274,900

Spectacular Avenel Listing

Bethesda, $1,150,000

Paradise in Bethesda

Bethesda, $1,845,000

Enchanting Colonial

Bethesda, $1,675,000
Edit Module

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading
Local Professionals

Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit Module