By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO
Baltimore County’s African-American leadership is responding to an unprecedented move by Maryland’s Secretary of Education to block the permanent appointment of Verletta White as Baltimore County superintendent.
On May 2, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon held back White’s appointment after receiving letters from dissenting board members and others who opposed White’s selection.
Salmon referenced ethics violations as the rationale for rejecting White’s appointment. White was chosen as permanent superintendent in an 8-4 vote last month by the Baltimore County’s School Board.
Julian Jones, chair of the Baltimore County Council, told the AFRO that the state superintendent’s interference with the decision of a local school board was “outrageous.”
“It should be offensive to every citizen of Baltimore County who pays for the schools and sends their children to public schools,” he said.
The Baltimore County School Board’s ethics panel reprimanded White for failing to disclose proceeds earned from part-time consulting work. Earlier this year, former Superintendent Dallas Dance pleaded guilty to perjury and was sentenced to six months in prison after failing to report paid consulting work for other school districts, companies and Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI), a business seeking contracts with the school system. White also served as a consultant for ERDI.
“We have a school board who took one year to make a decision. They listened to all the stakeholders. They know what’s going on and took everything into consideration when they appointed Verletta White,” Jones said.
“Those who were dissatisfied with the outcome decided to start writing to the state superintendent of schools. I had no idea that the governor and the state superintendent of schools would do something this egregious – to go against the will of the people of Baltimore County.”
White took the uncommon step of releasing the full seven-page report of the Baltimore County School Board Ethics Panel this week, which cited her for violating two policies: failure to disclose proceeds from consulting and using the prestige of her office for financial gain.
Anthony Fugett, president of Baltimore County’s NAACP, said he is dissatisfied with Salmon’s action and was concerned about the decision-making process she used to deny White the job.
“We’re very disappointed by this action,” he said. “We’re disappointed for the students and teachers in the Baltimore County system. I gather that this very rarely if ever happens in the state of Maryland.”
Fuggett said he was puzzled Salmon would suggest that White continue in the interim role for an additional year.
“We’re going to be looking closer at this matter and getting to the bottom of this to determine the best course of action,” Fuggett told the AFRO. He further questioned, “If she (White) isn’t recommended for the permanent position why would she be offered the interim for another year?”
Jones said that Salmon’s decision was made without input from Baltimore County leadership.
“I would love to know who she was consulting with,” Jones said of Salmon’s decision. “She was not consulting with me, the president of the school board or Delegate Steve Lafferty, chair of the Baltimore County General Assembly Delegation.”
Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz has also strongly opposed Salmon’s decision.
Jones and other county officials will confront Salmon at the next Maryland State Board of Education meeting on May 22.
“We the citizens of Baltimore County are not going to sit by and allow someone else to determine who is going to head our school system,”he said.