A Mainstay in Education 5

Michael A. Durso, current president of the Montgomery County Board of Education, Has Worked in Education for 44 Years

A $2.5 billion dollar budget, 23,000 employees, thousands of students—managing all of that may seem impossible, but not for Michael A. Durso, current president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. For 44 years, he has worked as both a teacher and a high school principal. In 2009, he stepped into his current role on the Montgomery County School Board.

Durso has spent his entire career in the D.C. metro area. He has worked at various schools in Washington, D.C., one high school in Virginia, and even served 13 years as the principal at Springbrook High School in Montgomery County.

So after 44 years, why jump into this role? Why not simply retire? That wasn’t in the cards for Durso.

“It’s given me an opportunity to see the school system from a different vantage point, maybe seeing the bigger picture rather than just seeing the local school perspective,” he says.

The bigger picture offers its share of challenges. Currently, Montgomery County is growing by 2,500 students per year. According to Durso, “that’s the equivalent of a large high school or maybe two or three middle schools.”

Also, 30 percent of those students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. While that percentage is lower than other counties, that’s still 50,000 students with varying needs and challenges.

“Our growth has really been a challenge,” Durso says.

It’s particularly challenging in a county where expectations are especially high.

However, even in the face of these challenges, Durso has an unwavering sense of optimism and calmness.

“The biggest thing [I love about this job] is being at the ground level when there are certain challenges and being able to try to work out and solutions and being able to work with people,” he says.

While enjoying his time on the board, Durso does miss working with students on a daily basis.

“What I enjoy is also what I miss the most, seeing students progress and grow, in many cases under some really dire circumstances,” he says. “That’s really been rewarding.”

When he isn’t solving problems, Durso is catching up with old colleagues, and even his former students. The night before his interview, he was able to meet up with a group of his students who had graduated from high school 30 years ago.

From his students to his time as a principal to his work in the county, Michael Durso has certainly left his mark on the community.