Mississippi’s public school trustees have unanimously nominated Carey Wright, a longtime Maryland educator and consultant, to become the next state superintendent of education, the first woman named to the top leadership position.
Wright must be confirmed by the Mississippi Senate by the end of the 2014 session.
Trustees voted unanimously in executive session late Tuesday to hire her. The vote must be formally spread on the minutes of the meeting for it to be legal. Several people familiar with the process said the executive session vote protects the identities of other finalists who wanted to avoid controversy in the jobs they hold now.
Lynn House serves as interim state superintendent. She did not seek the superintendency and will retire from the department.
The selection of a woman to lead Mississippi’s schools other than as an interim is arguably overdue. A strong majority of the state’s public school teachers are women, and some other states and city systems long ago broke the gender barrier.
The unanimous vote she received suggests all the trustees voting found her strengths compelling – the right fit for Mississippi.
She was the only woman among five finalists, but not the only woman among the original larger pool of 62 who applied.
Wright also previously had interviewed for local superintendent positions in Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa. In both cases she was not chosen.
Wright left the Washington school system in March. She worked for controversial former superintendent Michelle Rhee in Washington, but she said earlier that she is her own person and has a different approach to education leadership. Wright worked three more years after Rhee’s forced departure.
Wright is a former associate superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools, a large district in metropolitan Washington. Montgomery County, which has a smaller footprint than Lee County, Miss., has more than 1 million residents as of 2012. Thirty percent are 18 or under.
Her dossier in that position lists her areas of responsibility as special education and student services, both important areas of concern statewide in Mississippi.
Her background, while not statewide at any point except in the context of the District of Columbia, dealt with large budgets, thousands of students and thousands of teachers.
Wright begins her new job Nov. 1, a quick start in what arguably will be her most challenging endeavor.