Maryland state school Superintendent Karen Salmon stepping down in June

Maryland State Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon, who oversaw the introduction of a complex new school accountability system, will step down in June, the state school board chair retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Warner I. Sumpter announced Tuesday afternoon.

Salmon had until Dec. 1 to inform the board whether she would seek another four year contract, and Sumpter said she called to tell him she had decided to leave.


“She did contact me before that date, just decided that she preferred to move on. As far as I know, if she had shown an interest the board would have voted for her to remain,” he said. “She has done a tremendous job.”

Former state board member Andy Smarick, who served as chair during her tenure, agreed.


“Dr. Salmon is a top-flight administrator — one of the most able public-sector managers I’ve seen," he said. "She is also a lifelong educator who cares a great deal about kids and public schools.”

Salmon did not say whether she is retiring, but a statement released from the Maryland State Department of Education said “this culminates a distinguished career of over 40 years of work in public education.”

The search for a replacement will begin almost immediately with the hiring of a search firm, Sumpter said.

“This is usually the time of the year when most school systems are looking for their superintendents," he said, “so the quicker you move the better off you are to bring in the largest pool of candidates.”

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Salmon, whose job involves helping set education policy for the state, brought some stability to a bureaucracy that had had four superintendents in five years when she arrived in 2016. Before that leadership turnover, Nancy Grasmick held the job for two decades.

Salmon will leave on June 30, 2020 when her contract expires. By state regulations, superintendents in Maryland are all appointed for four year terms that begin July 1.

When she was hired in 2016, the state was designing a new accountability system that would assign stars to schools. She oversaw the release of the second set of data on Tuesday, hours before the announcement that she would be leaving.

The school board voted unanimously in public to hire the former Talbot County superintendent more than three years ago, however, behind closed doors some board members had reservations. She had years of experience in education on the Eastern Shore before taking a job briefly in New York State. Salmon was an interim deputy state superintendent in Maryland before becoming superintendent. She continued to live in Talbot County, commuting to work in Baltimore or a state office in Annapolis.


One of her more controversial decisions came in May 2018 when Salmon blocked the Baltimore County school board’s appointment of Verletta White, a long time educator in the county, as county schools superintendent. The move was unusual because state superintendents have rarely intervened in a local school board hiring process.

In this case, Salmon said the county had not completed an audit of contracts following the conviction of former superintendent Dallas Dance. White had worked for Dance.

The announcement of Salmon’s departure was made at the state school board meeting in Baltimore. Sumpter said he would like to hire a replacement by April, if possible.