Penelope Martin-Knox named next Sumter School District superintendent in unanimous vote

Career Baltimore County, Maryland, public educator to assume duties July 1

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Penelope Martin-Knox will be the next leader of the Sumter School District.

In a unanimous vote at 8:38 p.m. Thursday at a called meeting, the district’s Board of Trustees passed a motion to name Martin-Knox as the district’s next superintendent. She is expected to begin her post in Sumter on July 1, according to board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty.

Martin-Knox is currently in her 26th year in public education, all in Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland. In her ninth year in district administration in the school system, Martin-Knox is the district’s chief of school climate and safety.

Before this year, she held three different posts in the district’s administration: community superintendent for two years (2016-18), assistant superintendent for middle schools for four years (2012-16) and assistant to the assistant superintendent for middle schools for two years (2010-12).

She began her professional educational career with 17 years at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown, a suburb of Baltimore. After serving nine years as a music teacher from 1993-2002, she moved into administration at the magnet school. Martin-Knox was the school’s assistant principal for three years before becoming the school’s principal for five years from 2005-2010.

Martin-Knox has her bachelor’s degree in music education from Morgan State University in Baltimore. She also holds a master's in education administration and supervision from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland (now Notre Dame of Maryland University) in Baltimore and a doctorate from Morgan State in urban education leadership and supervision.

For two years, from 2013-2015, she was also an adjunct instructor at Morgan State.

“Our board was very pleased with Dr. Martin-Knox’s skills and experiences,” Canty said in a news release. “We believe she best fits qualities outlined in our community and staff written leadership profile. Dr. Martin-Knox also has strong experience in areas that will serve our district well now and in the future.”

Martin-Knox will be replacing Debbie Hamm, who has served as the district’s interim superintendent since Aug. 1, 2017. Hamm will conclude in her position at the end of June, Canty said.

The other two finalists for the position were Cynthia Ambrose of Charleston County School District and Ronald Hargrave of Scotland County Schools in Laurenburg, North Carolina. 

“All three finalists were excellent candidates and outstanding educational leaders,” Canty added. “We believe, however, that Dr. Martin-Knox is the best fit for Sumter.”

The board spent about 2 ½ hours in executive session behind closed doors Thursday night.

Also in the closed session, Columbia-based law firm White and Story LLC gave legal advice to the full board related to its appeal of the state Department of Education’s fiscal emergency declaration from last week.