Carey Wright, the incoming superintendent of Maryland public schools, has made clear she wants to stay in the job after her interim tenure ends.

The former superintendent of Mississippi schools, known for leading the Southern state through a massive improvement in academic achievement over a decade, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that she’ll apply for a four-year term as the leader of the Maryland State Department of Education.

In the meantime, she said, her top priority is implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, landmark legislation that commits billions of state and local tax dollars to make Maryland schools the best in the nation.

Wright starts her job as interim superintendent on Oct. 23, taking the place of Mohammed Choudhury, who decided not to seek a four-year term and left the job last week after he appeared to lose support from the majority of the state school board. Choudhury had been criticized for creating a toxic work environment and a strained relationship with the board that oversees implementation of the Blueprint.

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Wright, on the other hand, said at the news conference that establishing good working relationships is her strong suit.

She said she hasn’t gotten in the weeds of the Blueprint legislation yet, but wants to make sure her department is supporting the teachers and leaders across the state on their implementation plans.

“I think the more we can be on the same page, the better we’re going to be to get the kinds of things accomplished that we want to get accomplished for our children,” she said.

In Mississippi, she worked directly with the legislature and she hopes to do the same in Maryland, pending an invite from lawmakers in Annapolis. When it comes to working with staff at MSDE, she said she plans to meet with teams to hear their concerns and that she’ll have an open-door policy.

Under Wright’s leadership, Mississippi went from the bottom of the national ranking for reading and math scores to around the national average in a decade.

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“There’s no magic bullet to improving education,” she said. “Sometimes people refer to the work in Mississippi as the ‘Mississippi Miracle,’ but it’s not a miracle. It’s hard work over a long period of time and helping our teachers and leaders and students in whatever way we can.”

She did say, however, research-based interventions introduced at an early age are key, and she noted that teaching strategies are not one-size-fits-all. The state’s math scores, Wright said, are “abysmal,” and she’s already asking a lot of questions to figure out why.

She recently joined the board of Maryland Reads, a nonprofit advocacy group that is pushing for the state to have a phonics-based reading instruction approach known as the science of reading. It’s what’s credited for Mississippi’s reading turnaround. Choudhury also called for Maryland school districts to make the transition to science of reading last year.

Wright isn’t new to Maryland. The Prince George’s County Public Schools graduate and Baltimore County resident previously worked as a teacher, principal and administrator in Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s school systems. She was also the chief academic officer for Washington, D.C., public schools.

Wright’s salary will be $350,000.

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Choudhury will stay on as a senior adviser for policy until the end of June, retaining his salary that was $310,000 when he first became superintendent.

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