Kimberly Statham, a top deputy to former Montgomery County Public Schools chief Joshua Starr, says she’s not in the running to replace him as superintendent.
Responding to a query from Bethesda Beat, Statham, 56, said she was not a candidate for MCPS superintendent and had not applied for the job. She said she had informed the school board, which is vetting candidates, of her decision.
Some board members had been informally promoting Statham as a possible replacement for Starr, who left his post Feb. 16 after the eight-member board chose not to renew his contract. Starr was hired in 2011 to replace long-time superintendent Jerry Weast.
In a written statement, Statham said: “I appreciate that some have mentioned my name as a candidate to be the next superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, but I have informed the Board of Education and the search firm they have hired that I am not a candidate for the position. I enjoy the work I am doing as Deputy Superintendent for School Support and Improvement and look forward to continuing that work in the future.”
Statham is the second person who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the job of leading the 154,000-student school system.
Robert Avossa, 43, superintendent of schools in Fulton County, Georgia, was described earlier this week as a finalist for the Montgomery post, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Instead, he will become superintendent of the Palm Beach, Florida, public school system, where he will be paid a base salary of $350,000.
County school board members have taken a vow of silence about the process of selecting a new leader for the $2.3 billion school system, which has about 23,000 employees and spending that comprises about half of the county’s budget.
Despite the description of Avossa as a finalist, it’s unclear if the board and the private firm leading the superintendent search have actually narrowed the field to a list of finalists.
Board President Patricia O’Neill of Bethesda declined to say whether board members have met with potential candidates. She said that members believe that they can attract a stronger pool of candidates if they keep the search process confidential and don’t introduce finalists to the community, as some other school systems do when hiring a new superintendent.
She has appointed a group of community organizations that will send representatives to meet with the finalists, however. These representatives must pledge that they won’t reveal the names of candidates.
The representatives will be drawn from the following groups:
- Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils;
- The Montgomery County Education Association;
- The Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals;
- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500;
- The Montgomery County Council of PTAs;
- The Special Education Advisory Committee;
- The Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County;
- Identity Inc.;
- NAACP – Montgomery County, Maryland Branch;
- The League of Educators for Asian American Progress;
- The Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education;
- Montgomery College;
- The Universities at Shady Grove;
- The Latino Student Achievement Action Group;
- The African American Student Achievement Action Group;
- The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services; and
- The Montgomery County Recreation Department.
The board is paying the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates $35,000 plus expenses to conduct the search. The firm has been involved in the two previous superintendent searches in Montgomery, in 1999 and 2011. The first time the board settled on Elfreda Massey as the new superintendent, who then withdrew following disclosure of personal financial problems. That opened the way for the board to hire Weast. In 2011, the firm brought Starr to the board’s attention.