Lead candidate for MCPS superintendent withdraws from search

It is back to the drawing board to find a new superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools. Parents learned on Sunday that the school board's No. 1 choice was pulling out of consideration.

The news comes as a shock because he had been named just last week. Now, parents and students have questions about how the search is being conducted.

Three months ago, former superintendent Joshua Starr resigned after the school board would not renew his contract. But after just naming a candidate for his replacement last week, Montgomery County's school board now has a "Help Wanted" sign back out.

So what happened? On Thursday, parents of Montgomery County Public Schools students got an email from the school board saying they had identified a "preferred candidate" for superintendent -- Dr. Andrew Houlihan from Houston.

Two days later, parents got a completely different email saying Dr. Houlihan had withdrawn his name from consideration and that the search was going to begin again.

FOX 5 reached out to Houlihan, board president Patricia O'Neill and former superintendent Starr. None of them agreed to be interviewed.

"Until Thursday, the community didn't know anything about Dr. Houlihan," said Rosanne Hurwitz with the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County.

Sources tell FOX 5 internal concerns over Houlihan's short administrative career, support for charter schools, clashes with teachers unions and a lack of experience with diverse populations sank his job prospects.

But Hurwitz said the real problem is the entire job search has been closed door.

"They're way too secretive," she said. "They need to be more transparent."

It is not just parents, but some high school students said the superintendent search isn't making the grade.

"It sounds like they don't have their stuff together," one student told us.

"They need to start being more organized," said another student.

An interim superintendent has been in place since February, but it appears the school board's own July 1 deadline for naming a permanent one will not be met.