Darryl Williams steps away from second term

Katherine Schutzman, Flex Editor

A few days before the Board of Education was set to discuss his future in the county, Superintendent Darryl Williams announced that he would not be seeking another four-year superintendent contract with BCPS when his current one expires this June. Williams, a former K-12 area superintendent in Montgomery County, began his leadership in Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) in July of 2019.

Williams said that his decision to step away from a possible second term comes after much consideration. 

“I met with my family and we talked about what might be the next chapter in my life, and so they supported this decision,” Williams said.

However, there is speculation that Williams’ refusal to seek another contract may be a result of persistent pressure from multiple groups to replace Williams with new leadership. In June of 2022, five of seven Baltimore County Council members expressed their wish to replace Williams as superintendent, citing county-wide declines in academic success, increasing violence and transportation issues as reasons for worry. Low teacher and student morale and a high teacher turnover rate under his leadership have also raised concerns. Williams commented that he and the school system “are taking action,” but worries remain in the community as teachers and administrators struggle to deal with these increasingly dire circumstances.

“The BCPSC [Baltimore County Parent and Student Coalition] took a no-confidence vote in Williams, citing what it called a lack of leadership skills and disrespect toward members of the Board of Education, district staff and parents,” said WBALTV.

Williams, however, remains defensive that he was doing all he could for the success of the county, despite the unprecedented chaos that ensued during his term.

I want you to name a superintendent that came to a system with a hybrid board, dealt with a pandemic, dealt with a cyberattack and a climate in which folks describe as somewhat fearful about really doing anything, speaking up,” Williams said. 

“The state released a new report that provides some additional insight into the ransomware attack that crippled the district’s network almost three years ago” just prior to the announcement of his decision to step down, said WBALTV. Said report found that “inadequate security protections” played a partial role facilitating the breach, which does not bode well for Williams’ reputation or that of the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits, who did not follow through on a recommendation that the district move its database servers.

As the termination of his contract grows closer, the search for Williams’ replacement widens. Groups and unions such as the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) and the Baltimore County Parent and Student Coalition (BCPSC) look to be involved in the selection process for the next superintendent. The consensus on necessary characteristics of a new superintendent include flexibility, a sense of urgency and exceptional communication and collaboration skills.

“Being a superintendent is a tough job. Certainly, we’ve seen that nationwide. So, the system really needs to make sure they do their homework, do their diligence in looking for the superintendent, and as I said, get input from the stakeholders,” said Cindy Sexton, TABCO president, in an interview with WBAL-TV.

Jane Litcher, president of the BCPS Board of Education, said that there would be a nationwide search for a new superintendent if deemed necessary.

There is no question that the challenges that Williams faced over the past four years are unmatched by that of any other person recently in that position. His leadership, though not always highly regarded by community members, was still a significant aid in overcoming the challenges of a full year of virtual school, among other issues. As the search for a new superintendent continues, BCPS teachers, students and community members alike hope for a leader who can satisfy the demands of the position and fill the holes that many feel were left over the course of Williams’ term.