Maryland’s newly chosen state school superintendent will earn $310,000 a year, significantly more than the current superintendent but in line with most large district superintendents in the state.
Mohammed Choudhury, a San Antonio school administrator appointed last week, will take over from the current superintendent, Karen Salmon, who had intended to retire in June 2020 but extended her contract for one year after the board had difficulty finding a new leader during the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of a quirk in Maryland law, Choudhury could fulfill only the last three years of Salmon’s standard four-year contract. Although the state board worried the short contract would be a detriment to finding qualified candidates for the job, the president, Clarence Crawford, said the job attracted 55 applicants and four strong finalists.
Salmon is earning $275,000, a $40,000 increase from 2019. She retires on June 30.
“We wanted to pay a competitive rate,” Crawford said. “We are hopeful that he will do a good job and potentially stay over an extended period.”
The state school board arrived at the salary after consulting with its search firm about competitive rates nationally and doing an informal survey of local compensation.
Choudhury’s compensation will be higher than that of many rural superintendents but similar to what is paid superintendents in large districts.
Baltimore City CEO Sonja Santelises earns $325,000 as she enters her sixth year with the district. She was earning $298,000 during her first four years.
When it gave her the increase last year, board members said the bump in pay was intended to keep Santelises from being lured away by other districts. In January, she was identified as a possible candidate to become the U.S. secretary of education.
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Prince George’s Superintendent Monica Goldson earns $302,000 and Montgomery County Superintendent Jack Smith was to earn $315,000 last year, but he declined a $25,000 increase during the pandemic.
Baltimore County Superintendent Darryl L. Williams earns $290,000.
Choudhury’s three-year contract calls for him to receive standard state employee cost-of-living increases each year. He also will receive moving expenses and be reimbursed for travel expenses to professional conferences.
Known for his work on a funding formula that created a more precise way of targeting San Antonio’s highest-poverty schools, Choudhury received praise from Maryland legislators and national education advocates when he was chosen.
He carried out a program that created well-regarded magnet and charter schools that enticed white, middle-class students into schools where 50% of the students were economically disadvantaged.
San Antonio’s associate superintendent and chief strategy, talent and innovation officer, Choudhury was an uncharacteristic choice for the state school board. He is an out-of-state pick — one of two in the past 30 years — and as the child of immigrants from Bangladesh, he is the first man of color to lead the state’s education agency.
Maryland’s state superintendents have not stayed long in the job since Nancy Grasmick left nearly a decade ago having served for two decades. Salmon has been criticized by education advocates, some legislators and union leaders for her failure to communicate and bring different interest groups into decision-making.