Growing up near the D.C.-Maryland line, Darryl Williams would cruise down University Boulevard, grabbing a bite of pizza from Ledos or some homegrown comfort food from the Hot Shoppes on New Hampshire Avenue. The University of Maryland was only a few miles away, but he never thought he’d get in.
Fast forward to 2011, and Williams is walking across the stage at the UMD College of Education, earning his doctoral degree in educational policy and leadership.
Williams received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Hampton University, his master’s degree in educational leadership from American University, and began attending UMD as a part-time graduate student in 2002, the same year that he became a middle school principal in Montgomery County and welcomed his third child with his wife; so life was busy.
Williams attended classes for nine years while climbing the administrative ladder. In 2005 he became a high school principal; in 2007, principal of the largest high school in MCPS; and in 2011, a community superintendent.
“It was difficult,” Williams admits, recalling his doctoral experience. “There were times where I wanted to give up. But my advisors, my professors, they knew what the other students and I were going through. So that understanding and encouragement was extremely helpful.”
More challenges lay ahead for Williams. Not a year into his first term as superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, COVID-19 struck. A few months later, in the midst of managing extraordinary change, a cyberattack on BCPS shut down the school system’s entire network—crippling virtual learning and erasing decades of work.
Williams gives the College of Education a lot of credit for preparing him to handle both of these crises. Not only had he gained experience solving problems within small teams, but he’d also learned how to use outside resources— a skill that guided him to rely on health experts during the pandemic and IT experts and government authorities during the cyberattack.
Plus, Williams believes that by forging bonds with teachers and administrators from all across the state, he was able to rely on them during both crises—and to this day.
Now, Williams is excited to execute his strategic plan for the 111,000-student school system. Titled “The Compass: Our Pathway to Excellence,” his plan is structured around five areas of focus:
- Learning, accountability and results
- Safe and supportive environments
- High-performing workforce and alignment of human capital
- Community engagement and partnerships
- Operational excellence
Williams is also excited to spend another year working with students—his 34th since walking through the door at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School as a math teacher in 1988. And while he may not be interacting with students on a daily basis anymore, it’s still the best part of the job for him.
“Folks always tell me it must be so hard being superintendent,” he says, “and it is hard. But it’s also the most rewarding job because I still get to see the students. I get to see how they grow over the years, and I’m just so excited to welcome them back for another great school year.”