It happened very quickly. With the announcement that State Superintendent Mohammad Choudhury would leave his job on October 6th and continue as a "consultant," the State Board met on Wednesday and named former Mississippi State Superintendent Carey Wright as the interim Maryland State Superintendent.
Board President Clarence Crawford said the decision was "fairly easy" when Wright's accomplishments were considered. "She knows Maryland. She also went to another state and successfully laid a major literacy reform initiative and in the process she had to build relationships with people who she had no relationships with before," he said.
Vice President of the Board, Josh Michael said it was crucial to have a leader who could build consensus with legislators, the Governor, parents, and school leaders, something Choudhury refused to do.
Was the decision "fairly easy" or had it been made months ago when Choudhury went off the rails and lost the support of Governor Wes Moore? Certainly, the comment about relationships was a jab at Choudhury and his total inability to work well with others.
Wright has been retired since 2022 and lives in Baltimore County. She is a former teacher, principal, and administrator in Montgomery and Prince George's County and was the Chief Academic Officer for the Washington D.C. public schools from 2009-2013. Her latest position was as Mississippi State Superintendent of School for the past 11 years.
She is credited with getting Mississippi's state education ranking from 50th to 35th. She raised the student graduation rate to 85%.
Sounds promising. But lest you think Maryland has hired a Superintendent with no problems in her past, think again.
Wright came under scrutiny by a watchdog group and a state auditor who claim that under Wright’s watch, the Mississippi Department of Education has been guilty of funny business in the awarding of contracts including MDE trying to direct work to specific vendors and avoid oversight by coding similar contracts differently and by breaking up large contracts into smaller increments so as to keep them below the thresholds that would require competitive bidding.
Then there’s the dubious business relationship MDE had with Joseph B. Kyles, a Democratic activist in Memphis, whose company received over a two-year period more than $250,000 in no-bid contracts for information technology goods and services. In four of the six payments to Kyles’ company, the purchases were just under the $50,000 threshold that would have required MDE to get other quotes. Curiously, except for the invoices, there are no contracts or other paperwork to be found to back up these expenditures. 1
Many have lauded the progress Mississippi has made academically. Although the state has shown some academic progress under Wright, it’s hard to gauge how much. When she touts the increase in the state’s graduation rate, for example, she glosses over the fact that graduation requirements have been watered down. Later this month, the state will release the new accountability grades for schools and school districts. MDE has rigged the grading, though, to increase the likelihood that the number of F-rated districts won’t jump and the number of A-rated districts won’t fall. (This from an article written in 2017)
Wright is on the Leadership team for Maryland Reads (marylandreads.org) a 501c3 organization who states as their mission, "Our mission is to improve the effectiveness of reading instruction and ensure that it meets the diverse academic, cultural and linguistic needs of every student." When we looked to see a list of funders on their webpage, the page said, " Sorry, this page doesn't exist." Seems strange.
Maryland Reads posts different resources and affiliations in the accomplishment of their mission.
As an interim State Superintendent, Wright will be on the job while a nationwide search is conducted to find a permanent replacement. When asked about whether or not Wright would be considered, Crawford said " we shall see." Wright will be paid $350,000 which will be prorated for the length of her term.
Time will tell if Wright will be the solution to recent strained relations between the Maryland State Department of Education and the Accountability and Implementation Board for the Blueprint for Maryland's future. It's clear that she was put in place in almost record time.
As a friend of mine said about this appointment, "What a whitewash. Lather, rinse, repeat!"