Clarksburg High School Principal Edward K. Owusu on Monday announced his retirement after serving as principal since July 2017 and working in Montgomery County Public Schools for nearly 30 years.
The move also comes five days after a pro-Palestine, pro-ceasefire student walkout at the school that Owusu approved. Owusu faced backlash on social media platforms such as X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook for approving the student-organized walkout Nov. 8. However, he told MoCo360 the two developments are unrelated and any effort to connect them would be erroneous.
“This is by far one of the most difficult letters to write to what I consider my extended family,” Owusu, 52, wrote in a letter Monday to the school community.
His announcement comes after “much introspection and family discussion” he wrote.
Owusu’s letter did not mention the backlash. According to MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram, Owusu has been contemplating his retirement since late summer.
Cram said that Owusu’s decision was difficult, but he made an “important personal decision to emphasize his family at this time, particularly his son.” Cram did not share more details about Owusu’s family life.
Owusu announced his retirement to the school community on Monday and shared the announcement on LinkedIn. In a LinkedIn post, Owusu wrote that his retirement would be effective Jan. 1. His post was met with congratulations and thanks from a handful of alumni.
Prior to his role as principal of Clarksburg High School, Owusu served as principal of Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg from 2009 to 2017 and assistant principal at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville from 2005 to 2009, according to his LinkedIn profile. He began his career with MCPS in 1994 working at Argyle Middle School and James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, per his LinkedIn profile.
As Owusu announced his decision to retire, some on social media criticized him and the school system for allowing a walkout that they considered to be antisemitic and anti-Israel. Some also questioned why walkouts and student activism would be allowed at schools, adding that schools should stay neutral on political issues.
The walkout was organized by students from Clarksburg High School’s Muslim Student Association, or MSA, and the Student Government Association, or SGA. An Instagram post by the MSA after the walkout showed students carrying signs calling for a ceasefire, waving the Palestinian flag and chanting, “The people united will never be defeated,” “Free, free, Palestine,” “Occupation, no more,” and “Ceasefire now!”
Clarksburg High School’s MSA did not immediately respond to MoCo360’s request for comment. Sponsors of Clarksburg’s SGA directed questions about the walkout and Owusu’s retirement to Cram.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas War in October, MCPS has faced criticism from the county’s Jewish community for its response and communications about the conflict to the MCPS community. Additionally, the school system has seen multiple instances of antisemitic graffiti found on school campuses since the war began.
“I am immensely proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together, including the growth of our Advanced Placement, P-Tech, & Dual Enrollment Programs; 96.2% Graduation Rate (positive gains every year for the last 6 years), local and national recognition of amazing students and staff, and the overall strengthening of our school structure and culture,” Owusu wrote in the letter to the Clarksburg school community. “These achievements are a testament to the hard work, dedication, and collaboration of the entire school community.”
Owusu wrote that his next chapter would involve spending more time with his family, pursuing personal interests and “staying busy on the educational front.”
He added that he was committed to working with the MCPS Office of School Support and Well-Being and the next Clarksburg principal to “ensure a smooth transition and provide any necessary assistance during this period.”
Neither Owusu nor Cram responded to questions about the walkout. Owusu wrote in an email that it would be incorrect to connect his decision to retire to the “student advocacy event.” He added, “I have positively impacted the lives of all my students, staff, and my community for which I have supported every single one.”
Cram wrote in an email to MoCo360, “Principal Owusu takes immense pride in the substantial growth achieved by both students and the school’s programs under his guidance. His commitment to fostering a positive educational environment has left a lasting impact on the school community.”