Montgomery County schools to pay Monifa McKnight $1.3 million in separation agreement

Former Montgomery County Schools superintendent Monifa B. McKnight will receive $1.3 million as a part of her separation agreement with the school board, according to a document released Friday.

Most of the payout covers “agreed upon wages,” though it also includes $30,000 to cover her attorney fees, according to the agreement obtained by The Washington Post through a public records request. McKnight’s attorney, Jason Downs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“All decisions the Board makes are made in the best interest of our students and our school system,” the school board said in a statement provided by President Karla Silvestre. “It is imperative that anything that distracts from high quality teaching and learning is minimized.”

The board’s statement did not directly reference McKnight or the details of the separation agreement.

As a part of her separation deal, McKnight agreed not to sue the school board over any matter that happened before she signed the deal on Feb. 28. But the agreement adds she is not prevented from “testifying honestly … in any action or proceeding adverse to the interests” of the school board if she were subpoenaed.

Both McKnight and the school board agreed to avoid making any disparaging statements about one another, according to the agreement.

McKnight announced on Feb. 2 that she reached a “mutually agreed separation” with the school board amid questions over how the district handled sexual harassment, bullying and other allegations involving a former principal. She was about two years into a four-year contract when she stepped down.

McKnight, who had nearly two decades of experience with the Montgomery school system, was hired as superintendent in 2022 at a base salary of $320,000 — making her one of the state’s top paid school leaders.

Among other details of the agreement: McKnight’s child is allowed to continue attending Montgomery County schools, even if her family chooses to move outside of the county.

Jill Ortman-Fouse, a former county board of education member, questioned the school system covering $30,000 of McKnight’s attorney fees. “It seems exorbitant,” Ortman-Fouse said. “It also seems weird that MCPS would be paying for her personal attorney fees.”

Since McKnight’s departure, the school board hired Monique Felder, a former North Carolina superintendent, as the district’s interim leader. The school board has launched a national search for the next superintendent and asked for community input as it undergoes the process.

“We are actively planning for the future to ensure that our schools continue to thrive and meet the needs of our diverse community,” the school board said in its statement.

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