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The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Superintendent Mckinght steps down amid turmoil

On Feb. 2, 2024, superintendant Monifa McKnight resigned from her position after serving MCPS for two years.
Photo by MoCo360
On Feb. 2, 2024, superintendant Monifa McKnight resigned from her position after serving MCPS for two years.

On Feb. 2, 2024, MCPS’ superintendent of two years, Monifa McKnight, stepped down from her position following an agreement between her and the Montgomery County Board of Education. The resignation followed weeks of tension over her mishandling of countless sexual harassment and bullying charges against former Principal of Farquhar Middle School, Joel Beidleman, and has spurred feelings of discomfort and mistrust throughout the county.

“This event has definitely led me to reconsider the tenuous dynamics between students and staff within MCPS,” WCHS senior Pavani Durbhakula said. “The severity of the allegations presented against McKnight demands MCPS improve mechanisms of responding to such issues and holding their administrators accountable.”

Beidelman’s various allegations have led county residents to question the lack of accountability taken by teachers and staff when such events occur. In recent weeks, MCPS has worked to develop more thorough inspections into criticisms against staff.

“Every three years, employees have background checks,” WCHS Principal John Taylor said. “But, there was not a piece where they went back and checked if there had ever been an investigation and what the result of the investigation was. Those pieces have now been added. They have to present about [these complaints] specifically to the Board. It is now very transparent as they see the complaints and how they were resolved.”

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MCPS has attempted to revise their faulty system of employee checks. Although McKnight has already been replaced with interim superintendent Monique Felder, the community is still questioning the process by which she was asked to resign.

“MCPS’ lack of transparency and unclear communication regarding McKnight’s removal has made this a needlessly confusing experience,” Durbhakula said. “As students, we are greatly impacted by county changes at the administrative level, so I believe MCPS needs to take greater initiative to be more transparent as we navigate through this sudden transition and reduce barriers to understanding the situation for students and their families. Vague and infrequent updates on an evolving situation that so directly affects us are not sufficient.”

The failure to fully address the process regarding McKnight’s resignation has made students, staff and parents throughout the county uncomfortable. Questions have been raised regarding whether or not there were underlying causes to the resignation. Although some are skeptical of what truly happened, the general conclusion is that situations such as these cause community distrust toward people in high positions of power.

“This mistake was going to continue to be a distraction [for the county] and she was worried it would be a distraction from doing her work,” Taylor said. “Superintendents serve at the pleasure of the community. It is a more political position and the Board can remove them at any time. Discussing whether or not she should step down would drag the process on for six more months, and she would not be as effective as she wanted to be. When you’re a leader at that level, there are things you may or may not have had control over, but those situations may lead to others losing trust in you.”

McKnight no longer has the power to sway the public, but it seems she unknowingly garnered feelings of animosity well before her mistake with Beidelman. Several MCPS teachers and staff felt disrespected under her leadership.

“She did not appear to bargain in good faith with the union,” WCHS English teacher and Union Representative Alison Deli said. “It did not seem like teachers and staff were a priority to her. Teachers do not get automatic raises each year and it seemed like she was reluctant to create a contract in which teachers were given specific raises at specific times. She did not have a sense that she liked teachers. She was not a popular principal or colleague. The mistake was one thing in a line of many feelings. We did not feel respected by the superintendent.”

In response to this situation, a national search is being held to find a permanent replacement superintendent by July 1, 2024. The community hopes to be able to put more trust in this new leader. In the WCHS community, Principal Taylor is dedicated to creating a foundation of trust.

“The only way I can gain the community’s trust around here is by my reputation,” Taylor said. “People have known me as the principal at Cabin John [Middle School] and here. The administrators and I have addressed every complaint. Sometimes things are misconstrued or we disagree and that can happen, once. If they make the mistake 20 times, then clearly they are not trying to change. Here, we have stressed not sweeping anything under the rug and will continue to do so.”

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About the Contributor
Clara Young
Clara Young, Copy Editor
Clara Young is a WCHS senior and the Copy Editor for The Observer. This is her third year taking journalism. During her free time away from The Observer, Clara is usually at her soccer practice or reading a book. She loves spending time with her friends and watching horror movies.

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