The Maryland State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to approve Mohammed Choudhury to replace Karen B. Salmon as the State Superintendent of Schools on July 1.
Choudhury is currently the associate superintendent of strategy, talent and innovation at San Antonio Independent School District. He is known for his innovative initiatives when it comes to poverty and race.
“With the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future as a guide for MSDE and every district in the state, the state’s leaders have shown a remarkable commitment to the hard work that’s necessary to bridge gaps and ensure every student has the tools and supports needed to be successful,” Choudhury said in a statement. “I am honored by the board’s selection and look forward to hitting the ground running as Maryland’s next State Superintendent of Schools.”
With 90% of students economically disadvantaged in San Antonio’s school system, Choudhury helped implement a poverty tracker, recruit top teachers to underperforming schools and elevate the school system to the fastest-improving district in Texas, according to a MSDE press release.
He also created a school integration plan for San Antonio Independent School District.
Choudhury started his career as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he was awarded for his innovative work to provide additional support to middle school students. He then served as the director of transformation and innovation for the Dallas Independent School District.
Choudhury grew up in Los Angeles as a first-generation American with parents who emigrated from Bangladesh in the 1980s.
In 2019, Salmon, who has headed the state system since 2016, announced that she was not seeking another term. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Maryland, the State Board of Education quickly voted in March to extend Salmon’s contract so that she could continue leading the state public schools’ response to the pandemic.
This means that Choudhury’s term will be 3 years instead of the typical 4 years. But Board president Clarence Crawford said the shorter term was not an impediment to finding top candidates.
“When we set out on our search for Maryland’s next superintendent, our goal was to identify and hire the highest caliber candidate to build the future of education for all Maryland children. Considering Mr. Choudhury’s outstanding transformative accomplishments, we are completely confident that we have hired the right person, one who deeply cares about children,” Crawford said in a statement.
“Mr. Choudhury distinguished himself by providing a fresh perspective, and his engaging high-energy approach brings the best out of the people he serves. He is a bold pioneer in the educational community, and we are fortunate to have secured his leadership as Maryland’s chief education officer as we continue to recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and seek to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” his statement continued. “Mr. Choudhury is an empathetic and collaborative leader and hard-working person who values input and diverse perspectives.”
In a special board meeting Thursday afternoon, Crawford offered Choudhury the state superintendent position, and he accepted.
“In every role I’ve held, whether in the classroom, whether as a teacher leader or a district administrator, students have always been my top priority and that won’t change in Maryland,” he said. “Maryland is truly ‘America in miniature,’ which means that it’s a state that sets the tone and sets an example for the nation, especially when it comes to education.”
“But being one of the top states doesn’t mean there aren’t any gaps. It certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement,” he continued.
Choudhury will be responsible for implementing a sweeping education reform initiative called the Blueprint For Maryland’s Future, which got enacted into law this year after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Lawrence J Hogan’s veto.
Board members welcomed Choudhury and his wife, Aniss Khani, virtually, extolling his appointment and joking about Maryland and Texas.
Board member Rose Li said Choudhury’s references described him as “visionary, innovative, transformational, [with a] commitment to equity, a rising star, [and] that you’re ready for this.”
“We have every confidence that you’re going to do a great job,” Li said.
“I know you have an eye and a heart for every kid here in the state of Maryland, so I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and join alongside you,” said Rachel McCusker, the teacher member of the board.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) also welcomed Choudhury.
“I have long said that we need a transformational superintendent, and am tremendously pleased with the Board’s vote to appoint Mr. Choudhury as the next schools Superintendent. Like myself, Mr. Choudhury is a former schoolteacher who left the classroom to fight for comprehensive change in the school system. His work in San Antonio … has helped to start the path to a more equitable education system, and his leadership throughout the pandemic has led to national accolades,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We have some great challenges ahead of us for education, and I look forward to Mr. Choudhury‘s bringing his innovation and energy to Maryland.”
Salmon began her 45-year public education career as a special education teacher in the Caroline County Public Schools and later became superintendent for Talbot County Public Schools. She was also superintendent of the Bay Shore Union Free School District in Bay Shore, N.Y.
“We are thankful for Dr. Salmon’s leadership, deep knowledge of Maryland’s education system and her unparalleled commitment to all Maryland children as part of her dedication to equity and excellence,” Crawford said in a statement. “As a result of her guidance, we are well-poised to deliver the future of Maryland education.”
The Maryland State Department of Education did not immediately respond to questions about Choudhury’s salary or his employment contract.