The final four candidates for the Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent search have been revealed and the school board is expected to pick the new leader as soon as Tuesday.

The board’s selection will take over from Superintendent Darryl Williams, who announced in January he was not seeking a second term. The contract for the next superintendent must be in place by July 1.

Myriam Yarbrough

Yarbrough serves as the deputy superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools and is the only finalist who works in the school system. She became the deputy in December 2021 after joining the system in 2020, quickly rising through the ranks under Williams. Previously, she was the chief of the system’s Division of Organizational Effectiveness, the executive director of secondary schools in the west zone and the director of school performance.

Yarbrough may be a divisive figure among school system staff. She was named in a lawsuit filed in April by the former chief of human resources, Shiria Anderson, who is accusing the school system of wrongful termination.

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Although the lawsuit doesn’t specifically accuse Yarbrough of wrongdoing, Renard Adams, a former senior executive director for the system’s curriculum operations, accused Yarbrough and Williams of treating “a long line of people” unfairly, including Anderson and other cabinet members.

Adams, now a Portland, Oregon, schools official, was among a group of former and current employees who accused Williams of having an “erratic” and retaliatory leadership style.

“People who have had concerns about Williams’ lack of transparency, leadership and communication should ask themselves, upon whom was he relying on for counsel and guidance?” he wrote to The Banner in a text message.

He wrote in a tweet that he thinks Yarbrough should be disqualified.

Bryan Epps’ experience with Yarbrough, on the other hand, was largely a positive one. He’s the president of the union representing 3,000 Baltimore County school support staff, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and building service staff. He credits Yarbrough with fixing the transportation issues that plagued the county in the summer and early in the school year.

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“At every board meeting you heard people talking about outsourcing transportation,” he said. “You never hear about it anymore because she fixed it.”

He said she always gets back to staff, finds solutions and makes union members feel included. It was under her and Williams’ leadership that union members received professional development, and it was Yarbrough, Epps said, who allowed staff to sell back their surplus of vacation time when staff shortages and the pandemic caused them to work longer than usual.

Jess Grim, the system’s acting transportation director, also credited Yarbrough for transforming the department by addressing shortages, giving raises and improving communication. It’s why he wants her to be the next superintendent.

“Retention of bus drivers and bus attendants has increased this year, and the number of school bus driver vacancies is less than half of what it was in June 2022,” he said in an email. “I have never seen someone who can remove barriers, support staff — but hold them accountable, and steadfastly do what’s in the best interest of children, simultaneously, as Dr. Yarbrough has done in her role as deputy superintendent.”

The teacher and principal unions would not comment about the candidates, and a spokesperson for the school system declined interview requests for Yarbrough.

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Before Yarbrough came to Baltimore County Public Schools, she spent seven years as principal of Paint Branch High School in Montgomery County, the same school system where Williams worked before becoming superintendent.

While at Paint Branch, Yarbrough received the Edward Shirley Award for excellence in educational administration and supervision. According to a news release, she started her career as a chemistry teacher and has been in an administration role since 2002. She was a principal at Francis Scott Key Middle School in Montgomery County and an assistant principal at Montgomery Blair High School. She received a doctoral degree in education from the University of Maryland in 2013 and was an adjunct professor at McDaniel College.

Jason Glass

Glass, is seen in Kentucky as a somewhat embattled figure after he stood up to Republican state legislators over LGBTQ issues and was punished for it. Despite that, he appears to be popular among the state’s education leaders, who describe him as collaborative and supportive.

He began his career as a social studies teacher in 1996 in Hazard, Kentucky, and went on to hold a series of administrative jobs in research and assessment and human resources in school systems and education nonprofits in Colorado before becoming the head of education at the Iowa Department of Education.

He became superintendent of the Eagle County School District, a Colorado district with about 6,000 students, from 2013 to 2017 and then superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, a diverse suburban district outside of Denver with a significant number of new immigrants and Latino students, from 2017 to 2020.

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In 2020 he moved back to his home state of Kentucky to become the commissioner of the Kentucky State Department of Education. He received a doctorate from Seton Hall University in 2011 and a certificate in advanced education leadership from Harvard University in 2019.

Glass is seeking a new job after action by a conservative Republican legislature this past session. After Glass refused to rescind voluntary guidance to school districts that encouraged teachers to respect transgender students’ preferred names and pronouns, the legislature passed a law that required him take down the guidance.

The legislature also passed a bill to require the commissioner — the equivalent of Maryland’s state schools superintendent — to be approved by the Kentucky Senate in order to hold the job. His contract expires in 2024.

Glass said he grew up in Kentucky and hoped to spend many years there, but has now changed course. “My values are profoundly misaligned with what the legislature wants to accomplish in terms of education. So I don’t wish to spend my professional time and energy ... on cultural issues and what ultimately has been an agenda of dismantling and harming public schools.“

Glass was also named in a lawsuit filed by Jefferson County’s board of education over a bill school board members said shifts power away from them and gives it to the superintendent. Glass was sued as commissioner by those who wanted to block the bill the legislature had passed.

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If he is chosen to lead Baltimore County schools, he said, he would focus on academic performance and achievement gaps. “There’s trust-building and district performance challenges to work on,” he said.

While he believes test scores and accountability are important, he would also emphasize the need to offer students a well-rounded education, with opportunities in the arts and career and technical education. “There’s a whole host of skills that make people successful human beings, workers and citizens that the tests don’t measure. And so I think it’s important that, as we focus on raising up foundational literacy and numeracy, that we don’t lose track of those other characteristics and skills that students need to be successful,” he said.

He would move the school system toward the “science of reading,” a movement that is growing nationally to return to the use of phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension in teaching reading, particularly in the early grades.

Glass said he would focus on improving curriculum and providing teachers the tools to do their jobs but also give them some autonomy. “I have never been a believer in sort of a cookbook approach to curriculum, like here’s what you need to follow on day 34,” he said. The system’s job, he said is to provide a foundation that all teachers use.

Glass said that Jeffco is similar to Baltimore County, with a range of schools that were both urban and rural. He said some of the schools bordered Denver and others were so rural that cows got out of pastures and onto school grounds. A focus of his work on the state level, he said, has been on equity and diversity in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Several education leaders in Kentucky spoke highly of Glass on Friday shortly after news broke that he was a finalist in Baltimore County.

“I hate to think about Dr. Glass leaving Kentucky. He has been an outstanding, visionary leader who has begun really important work here,” Kentucky Board of Education Chair Lu S. Young said in a statement. “While we understand that he is pursuing other opportunities in the best interest of his family, losing him poses a serious challenge for our board.”

Laura Hartke, a teacher and a union organizer for Kentucky 120 United American Federation of Teachers, said, “I can tell you the majority of us are very sad to hear he may be leaving us. Anyone would be very lucky to have him.”

She described him as accessible, supportive and a good listener. “The students were always first in his mind. He gave us resources and support,” she said. “I talk to teachers all across the state and I have never talked to a teacher who did not think Dr. Glass was a good commissioner.”

Solyana Mesfin, 18, a former Kentucky student board member who is now in college, said Glass prioritized a diversity of student voices. “It was rare you would see someone so in tune with the students and valued the students’ voices,” she said.

Glass said he wants to come to the county for a variety of reasons, including what he believes is a school board with “quality people on it. BCPS has the great fortune of having, I think, a board that’s really committed to public education that has a strong background understanding of education.”

But he also said he is drawn to Maryland because of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, landmark legislation that will provide more state and local funding for education. He called it “the most significant education legislation of 50 years” and one that provides opportunities for improving schools.

Robert Taylor

Taylor, a longtime educator, was selected to be superintendent of Mississippi’s public schools, with over 450,000 students, in November by the state school board. However, Mississippi’s Republican-led Senate voted against his confirmation in March. Democrats speculated that he was rejected at least partly because he is Black.

Before then, he had been the deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which has has half a million more students than Maryland public schools, starting in 2021. He was previously the superintendent of Bladen County Schools in North Carolina, a district with 4,000 kids, for nine years, and spent eight years as assistant superintendent at the 3,000-student Clinton City Schools in the same state.

North Carolina’s state superintendent Catherine Truitt said any district would be fortunate to have Taylor and that she and her colleagues missed him when he left. She’s known him since 2016 when he was one of eight finalists for superintendent of the year in North Carolina.

Truitt recruited Taylor to the advisory board for Western Governors University North Carolina, an online college. She also chose him to be one of her three deputies after she was elected to be the state superintendent in 2021.

“Rob is someone who doesn’t play political games. He keeps students at the center,” she said.

Truitt said Taylor helped her reopen the schools following pandemic closures, and she credits him with securing funding for free meals for students. He has experience turning schools around academically through the science of reading, she said.

“He’s an amazing husband, father and human being who can work with anybody, and in my almost-30-year career in education, I can’t say that about too many people,” Truitt said.

Taylor could not be reached for comment.

He’s originally from Laurel, Mississippi and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1990. He received his masters degree in 2001 and his doctorate in 2009 from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. He spent 30 years of his career in that state.

Kenny Rodrequez

Kenny Rodrequez has been the superintendent of Grand View Consolidated School District No. 4 in Missouri since 2016, after serving as the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

The district outside of Kansas City is much smaller than Baltimore County, with about 4,000 students and a budget of $113 million. Baltimore County has 111,000 students and a budget of about $2 billion.

Like many superintendents across the country, he began as a teacher and rose through the ranks in school districts.

According to his biography on the school district’s website and his LinkedIn profile, he was a music teacher and band director for eight years before moving into school administration.

Rodrequez declined to comment for this article.

He spent 10 years in Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma as a teacher, principal and director of innovative schools, setting up the first early college program in that district, which allows students to take courses at a community college while still in high school. He was director of the Tulsa Innovative School network, which served 1,200 students, according to his biography.

He was the director of secondary schools in Kansas City Public Schools from 2012 to 2014 and then moved to the Grand View school district. His biography said he has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate from Baker University in school administration.

“He is well respected in Missouri,” said Doug Hayter, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators. “I am not surprised at all that he is a finalist.”

Hayter said his peers chose Rodrequez as one of five administrators to represent the state as part of the leadership of the American Association of School Administrators. There are more than 500 school districts in the state, none of which has more than 25,000 students, Hayter said. “He is a very strong leader, and I think that his skills would translate to any size district.”

Hayter said that Rodrequez has worked closely with Mark Bedell, who left Missouri to become superintendent in Anne Arundel County.

An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of Latinx students in the Jeffco school district.

kristen.griffith@thebaltimorebanner.com

liz.bowie@thebaltimorebanner.com