Maryland Superintendent Choudhury Wants to Subvert Representative Governance of Maryland Schools
You can tell a lot about a person from how they handle the ideas and opinions of others. Make no mistake about it. Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury doesn’t trust local school boards. He doesn’t trust county superintendents. He doesn’t trust teachers. He doesn’t respect the opinions of all parents. He doesn’t even like state legislators who question him. He views all of those groups as impediments to HIS chosen agenda in Maryland education. He really wishes all those people would shut up and go away.
How do I know? I know because several times in the last week I have watched him get rude, arrogant and contentious when faced with legislators and/or reporters who asked him tough questions. He attempted to publicly humiliate a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, implying that the Delegate was too stupid to understand the difference between a curriculum and a framework even after Choudhury had “explained it to him for three hours ” a few days earlier. Here is that exchange:
Choudhury is in the white shirt addressing the delegate. Note the demeaning and impatient tone and words Choudhury uses to embarrass the Delegate. At the end of the clip, he threatens that he will continue to do what he wants.
I watched as he convinced lawmakers to take HB 119 and change it from a bill that covered ONE curriculum (Health and Sex Education Framework) that he can control to a bill that gives him full and complete authority to override local elected school boards and mandate what local school districts will teach in their classrooms in ALL Curriculums. If they go against him, they can lose 20% of their funding.
A person who respects local school boards, superintendents, communities, and most importantly, our form of government, wouldn’t do that. He would allow those groups to decide what is best for their students and their communities. It’s strange that he is so hell bent to wrest control away from them and take it for himself. Why does he hate local control so much? How can a person who accepted a position to head a state school system view constituents and colleagues in such a way?
He says that he is doing it for his Superintendents who can’t focus on literacy while dealing with the issue of HB 119. He seems to think these Superintendents can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Insult by implication.
Let’s take an in depth look at Mr. Choudhury and gain insight on him.
Mohammed Choudhury is the son of Pakistani Immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 80’s. He attended Los Angeles Public Schools as a child. He claims that his schools were in a district that had 75% poverty. Mr. Choudhury started his undergraduate work via Santa Monica Community College because he didn’t get into UCLA. He then earned his degree at California State University and later earned an M.Ed. from UCLA. He started his career as a classroom teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District where he earned accolades for his innovative work to partner with non-profit organizations to provide students with additional support in middle school. He eventually left the district because of frustrations with the district and school administrations.
From there, Choudhury went to the Dallas Independent School District in 2014 and developed 35 new or revamped charter schools organized around teachers’ interests. The first new schools were quickly overfilled and had some 1,600 applications for 617 seats for the 2016-17 academic year. Many of the applicants were wealthy students and Choudhury didn’t want that. From THE 74million.org: Inevitably, affluent families flocked to the schools. The district came under pressure to give admissions priority at one — an all-girls engineering-themed school — to children from the surrounding very wealthy neighborhood. No way said Choudhury. That would simply re-create the segregation wrought by housing patterns. ( My question, is this where the dislike for local control started?)
More from the same article: “One of the things that we told ourselves is we’re not going to do school choice … in a way that exacerbates segregation,” he says. “We’re not going to create a system [that has] our hands and fingerprints on it that allows a few winners and lots of losers.” Ultimately, the Superintendent who hired Choudhury resigned.
Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles Resigns – CBS Texas (cbsnews.com) Having a new Superintendent in Dallas forced Choudhury to find a new job.
He ended up in San Antonio where he was tasked to do what he did in Dallas. During his interview he made it clear what his mission was. Again from the 74million.org: “One of the things, if he (the Superintendent interviewing him) was going to pick me, diverse by design was going to happen,” says Choudhury. “That’s non-negotiable to me.” He was hired as the districts “Chief Innovation Officer” in 2017.
While in San Antonio, he once said to his staff that it’s important to “design as if we will not be here one day,” and to create programs so that it would be difficult to make decisions to undo what they have done. In retrospect a very enlightening statement.
This ultimately led him to the State Superintendency in Maryland just five years later in 2022 as he replaced retiring Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon. A man who had never lived in Maryland and knew almost nothing about our state, signed a contract that netted him $310,000 a year, $40,000 a year more than Salmon.
As he started his tenure, there was much praise. People liked his energy, his dedication, his creative ideas. He met with different groups and populations. But there were problems.
At the MACO (Maryland Association of County Officials) Convention in 2021, Choudhury railed at the actions of the Carroll County Board of Education who voted to allow only the U.S. and Maryland flag to be flown in county schools and classrooms after a petition from their constituents. According to sources, he was apoplectic that a local school board would decide to take that stand and exert that control over schools in their jurisdiction just because citizens wanted it. He seemed perturbed that it violated the way HE thought things should be done. He also seemed upset that they didn’t ask him about the issue.
Another example from 2022:
From Maryland Matters, August 18, 2022-“Predictably, since his job can be so controversial, a number of concerns were also expressed off the record. Repeatedly, he was portrayed as being touchy about criticism. Closely akin is the oft-stated comment that, while he is very knowledgeable, he can be closed off to the views of others.”
“These misgivings are voiced by insiders and outsiders. Many MSDE staff complain that he relies only on a small inner circle, creating internal bottlenecks; they feel holdover staff are deemed guilty by association with past MSDE failures. Stakeholders too, while appreciative of introductory sessions with him, describe him as more of a talker (especially on his experience in Texas) than a listener. They lament the difficulty of gaining a meaningful role so far in his planning and decision-making”
“One clear example is his lack of involvement with K-3 literacy advocates (me included). He waxes eloquent on the paramount importance of early literacy, and “science of reading” is a top priority in Maryland Leads grants. Yet, abundant national literature already spells out what evidence-based policies are needed, and MSDE was making notable progress with stakeholder input before Mr. Choudhury arrived. But he totally halted this effort. As a result, pending his long-promised comprehensive plan which is months (if not a year) away, our most vulnerable students have lost a precious and often irretrievable year in learning to read.” “Other advocacy groups express similar reservations, wondering whether he will follow through, build relationships and provide meaningful engagement as decisions and plans evolve.”
“Conspicuously silent are two influential groups that represent local school systems: the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland. They declined to respond to my inquiries. This fits the clear impression, gleaned from many sources, that they are wary.” Maryland Matters, August 18, 2022-Kalman Hettleman
With the overhaul of HB 119 which created a bill that would give Mr. Choudhury full authority over ALL curricula taught in every district, these groups are no longer silent.
This letter from MABE says it all:
These groups aren’t going along with Choudhury’s vision of one person rule over education in the state. MABE notes that his desire for control will destroy the balance between local and state authority in the schools.
Choudhury seems to be looking for assistance in his plan as he recently hired a Chief of Staff, a position that has been unfilled during the past Superintendent’s tenure at MSDE.
State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury Hires a Chief of Staff – Maryland Matters After reading the article above, it’s easy to see why Ari Amerikaner was hired. It seems Amerikaner and Choudhury might share the same view of enforcing policies.
From the article above: Before joining The Education Trust, Amerikaner worked in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, where she helped craft spending rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which gave local officials more authority to define what it means for a school to be successful and how to intervene when it does not meet expectations.
(Ari was on the board of this group: The Education Trust (edtrust.org)) The Education Trust also seems to share some of the Progressive policies that have inundated our schools lately.
Here are some of the “grant makers” for The Education Trust:
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Bezos Family Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Carina Initiatives, Inc.
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
The Chicago Community Foundation
Recognize some of those names?
Given the recent pushback from different state groups and local boards of education, it seems that Choudhury needs someone to reinforce the mandates he wants to institute. Who better than someone who has worked in an administration that created many mandates and enforcement measures and who has connections to some of the largest Progressive donors? Is Choudhury under pressure to get curricular mandates in place? Are groups like GLSEN, SIECUS and other activist groups breathing down his neck? Maybe.
Is he merely a self-declared demigod who is enraged that his dictates are not being accepted? Or, as stated before, is he a man who has risen through the ranks too quickly and took a job that requires consensus building that he is not prepared for nor willing to do? Only time will tell.
No matter what the truth is, the local Boards of Education and the legislators in the House and Senate need to make a bold statement to Superintendent Choudhury.
You cannot overrule the people of Maryland and our elected officials. You are not our Education Supreme Ruler.
Apparently, several school systems and county governments are sending that message loud and clear:
Other systems have done the same.
Maybe Choudhury should listen. But he needs to get over himself first. Additional resources:
Jan Greenhawk, Editor, Radio Free Oxford
March 10, 2023 Jan is a retired teacher and a current Chapter Chair for Moms for Liberty, Talbot © Janet L. Greenhawk and Radio Free Oxford, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janet L. Greenhawk and Radio Free Oxford with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org