Fort Bend ISD has a new superintendent after trustees approved Marc Smith's contract at a special Jan. 8 board meeting.

What you need to know

Smith comes to FBISD with seven years of experience as superintendent in Duncanville ISD and four years as superintendent in Marshall ISD. He also previously served for six years as an executive principal and an assistant superintendent in FBISD, according to the district.

Trustees approved his appointment in a 5-1 vote, with trustee Kristen Malone voting against.

Following his appointment, Smith thanked board members for their faith and trust in him.

"We are all here to make sure that we do everything possible to provide the best, the highest quality education for the students in Fort Bend ISD, and I commit to you that every day, that's what you're going to get from me," he said. "So I'm looking forward to being here. Thank you so much for your support."

The backstory

Former Superintendent Christie Whitbeck announced her intention to retire in a Dec. 1 statement after serving as FBISD’s superintendent since October 2021. During a Dec. 4 board meeting, Whitbeck said she was asked by an unnamed board member to retire, leaving her "blindsided" by the decision.

Shortly after Whitbeck's last day, the district announced Dec. 15 Smith as the lone finalist for the position—pending a required 21-day waiting period.

Digging deeper

Malone, who has spoken in support of Whitbeck during board meetings, said she wasn't given a lot of time to review Smith's contract, saying she received it on Jan. 5. However, multiple board members—including Rick Garcia and Angie Hanan—refuted Malone's claims.

Garcia said board members had the same opportunity to review the contract, and comments he had on the contract were addressed before approval. He also said the board is advised by the district's legal counsel, so there's no "backroom deals, no hidden agendas."

"There's nothing nefarious going on, despite what some may say; it's just not true," Garcia said.

Board President Judy Dae and Vice President Shirley Rose-Gilliam also said it was time to "get back to work" and look toward the future of FBISD.

Sorting out details

Malone also said she was concerned about the financial implications of some of Smith's contract, which she said included a:
  • 50% contract buyout if terminated in the first year
  • 75% contract buyout if terminated in the second or third year
  • 100% contract buyout if terminated in years four and five, and for a year after
Community Impact has requested a copy of Smith's contract to verify.

Meanwhile, FBISD is still on the hook to pay what Malone said was a more than $540,000 severance package to Whitbeck.

"While I respect the contributions to Dr. Whitbeck, I must express my concern about the financial implications for our district," she said.

What they're saying

Colleagues from Duncanville ISD came out to support Smith's appointment, including Chief Academic Officer Jaretha Jordan, who said she has worked with Smith for almost three years.

"Fort Bend ISD, know that you are getting an amazing leader, one who believes in students, one who's invested ... and one who is committed to make sure that Fort Bend ISD is the best district in the nation," she said.

In public comment during the Jan. 8 meeting, Dexter McCoy, Fort Bend County's Precinct 4 commissioner, condemned board members for not being more transparent in the dismissal of Whitbeck, who he said was "a very well-qualified, hard-working superintendent." However, he wished Smith the best in the role and offered his support.

In an interview after the meeting, McCoy said he believes the board could have encouraged more community discussion by announcing the lone finalist when the 21-day waiting period wasn't during the winter break.

"That 21-day waiting period is meant for those who support the candidate to be able to talk about why and for the community to get educated on what strengths they bring to the table, as well as those who might have concerns to be able to express those concerns," he said. "The community was not afforded that opportunity in this process. And in fact, it seems that it was rushed intentionally. So I have a great deal of respect for our board members, but I'm incredibly disheartened with how they handled this situation."

Next steps

Smith's first day on the job will be Jan. 22, according to a Jan. 8 news release from the district.