MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - One of the highest paid employees in Montgomery County Public Schools has taken working from home to a new level, moving to Georgia last summer, according to real estate records.
Dr. Kimberly Statham has been a top administrator in the school system for years. In February of 2020, Superintendent Jack Smith announced she’d been given a "special assignment," traveling coast to coast to recruit teachers focusing specifically on diversity hiring.
During a July board meeting, Statham said the goal was to bring more teachers of color to the district. She said she was able to attend two conferences before the pandemic grounded travel.
"We do the best we can virtually through Zoom and WebEx," Statham told the board.
Real estate records show that in August, Statham bought a home in Atlanta and registered to vote in Georgia in September. An MCPS spokeswoman would not confirm Statham’s move, but said school staff working from home can do so from anywhere.
FOX 5 reached out to the president of the board of education for comment, but was referred back to the school district spokeswoman.
Statham’s salary is $230,500 and she does not have a contract, according to an open records request.
Janis Sartucci with the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County questions whether such a highly paid executive needs to do this work.
"What we look at in something like this is, is this the best use of our education dollars, particularly during a pandemic," Sartucci said.
She also wonders if this is something we could see more of in Montgomery Co. and beyond.
"Is that really a model for best practices for public school administrators?" Sartucci said. "If it is, then can we have our next superintendent live and run the school system from California?"
A school district spokeswoman wouldn’t say how many teachers Statham has recruited.
"While I will not provide any specific numbers, Dr. Statham's efforts have helped increase the number of applicants and the diversity in applications to our teacher pool," said spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala.
Dr. James Bailey, with George Washington University School of Business, says he believes we’ll see more people working from home especially with positions like Statham’s.
"She doesn’t need to be there every day," said Bailey. "Her job is not an internal one in a way, it’s an external one to start with. And she’d be on the road a lot anyway, let’s assume the pandemic didn’t happen."
But Bailey also says there’s a difference between private sector and government jobs, with private organizations typically better at managing productivity. And he says there’s meaning in being physically part of your workplace and accessible to the community.
"If I want to build a culture of a school, if I want to build the culture of a small business, if, in my case, I want to build the culture of a university, you can’t do that electronically," said Bailey. "There’s no sense of camaraderie and collegiality that comes from these kinds of (virtual) conversations."
Statham has not responded to requests for comment.
Onijala says Statham’s special assignment will end on June 30. It’s not clear what’s next.
Onijala refused an interview, but in a statement said:
"Montgomery County Public Schools has provided employees (depending on the nature of their specific job) with an opportunity to telework/work remotely for a number of years. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations across the nation, including MCPS, quickly pivoted to fully remote work (with the exception of essential employees) to ensure the safety of its staff. While many teachers have returned to school buildings for in-person teaching and learning, many MCPS staff continue to successfully work remotely and there are no restrictions on where they can work from. MCPS has staff that live outside of the DMV and they understand that they can be called to report to a physical MCPS worksite at any time. A staff member who works for MCPS and lives in another state would not be in violation of any MCPS regulations. MCPS employees have done tremendous work during this period of remote work and telework is something that we will continue to offer even after the pandemic ends."