The Montgomery County school board has tapped a veteran Virginia educator to be superintendent of the 160,000-student district, the largest in Maryland.

Thomas W. Taylor, who now leads the Stafford County, Virginia, school system, has been appointed to succeed Monifa McKnight, who stepped down in February as superintendent, the Montgomery County school board announced Monday.

Taylor was raised in Montgomery County and was named Virginia Region III Superintendent of the Year, board President Karla Silvestre said at a news conference. With more than 31,000 students, Stafford County is Virginia’s eighth-largest public school district.

Silvestre noted that Taylor has more than 25 years of experience as an educator, including 12 years in district-level leadership and six years as a superintendent.

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“The culture that I would like to create in MCPS is one of support, safety, mutual trust, mutual respect and innovation. These are the things that are important to me and that you will see me model for others,” said Taylor. “I’m not here to bring a wrecking ball to anything but rather to preserve that which is working and enhance those areas that need improvement.”

Silvestre said the board was impressed with Taylor’s communication skills, as well as his experience in both education and finance.

“The unique marriage of an instructional leader with deep understanding of school finance is a powerful combination in a school leader,” she said.

McKnight stepped down in February, two years into a four-year contract with MCPS. Her departure reportedly came amid questions about how the school district handled sexual harassment allegations made against Joel Beidleman, the former principal of Farquhar Middle School in Olney.

She reached a “mutually agreed separation” with the school board that included a $1.3 million payout separation agreement, covering “agreed upon wages” and her attorney fees, The Washington Post reported in March. McKnight also reportedly agreed to “avoid making any disparaging statements” about the board and not sue it over any matters occurring before the agreement was signed on Feb. 28, The Post reported.

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Taylor said he aims to “elevate” the level of transparency within the school system and hold accountability for when “things don’t go well.”

“I can only speak generally and not specifically to any personnel issues because I wasn’t involved in any of that. But moving forward, I would say we have to take everything very seriously,” Taylor said at the news conference. “I think in that seriousness and our look at how things come about, whatever the issues are, that we look at how our system is functioning, and we look at what our expectations are and how well we’ve communicated those expectations and then what we’re doing for follow through that’s actionable.”

Taylor graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and holds a bachelor of arts from Virginia Wesleyan University. He has a master’s degree in educational leadership and a doctorate in education policy from the University of Virginia. He also has an MBA from the College of William and Mary. He and his wife Sue have five children, according to a news release from MCPS.

While Taylor was the deputy superintendent in Chesterfield County, he also served as an interim CFO.

The board will formally vote on Taylor’s appointment on June 25, after which his contract will be finalized. He would replace Monique Felder, who has been serving as interim superintendent.