By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Supporters of embattled Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Interim Superintendent Verletta White came out in force to this week’s State School Board meeting. More than 40 administrators, principals and other Baltimore County school officials packed the Nancy Grasmick State Education Building in downtown Baltimore urging State Superintendent Karen Salmon and the Board to reverse course and approve the County School Board’s request to make White permanent superintendent.

“We came to show, in human form, the level of support we have for Verletta White for permanent superintendent of BCPS,” testified Tom DeHart, Executive Director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees on behalf of the group that petitioned on behalf of White.

Verletta White, interim superintendent of Baltimore County’s Public School System. (Courtesy Photo)

DeHart warned that the actions of the State Superintendent Karen Salmon and the State School Board represented a dangerous level of state intrusion into the internal affairs of a local jurisdiction.

“I believe all citizens in the state of Maryland should be extremely concerned with this historic overreach by the state superintendent with the approval of this board,” testified Tom DeHart, Executive Director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees on behalf of the group that petitioned on behalf of White.

Salmon and School Board members did not respond to public comments offered by the group. But in an exclusive interview with the AFRO, Rev. Michael Phillips, one of two Baltimore City representatives on the State School Board, pushed back on the notion that Salmon overstepped her bounds by denying White the permanent superintendent’s slot – at least for the coming 2018-2019 school year.

“I think qualified and capable to be the superintendent. However, I also understand the prudence and the patience of Dr. Salmon’s reasoning as to why she is being asked to wait one more year as an interim, before she becomes the superintendent because of the history attached” said Phillips, also a pastor of Baltimore’s Kingdom Life Church and chair of the Better Life Community Development Corporation.

According to Phillips, given former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance’s recent conviction and White’s ethics violations, waiting one more year for a full audit of the school system is a reasonable delay. He said Salmon and the school board are all in favor of White continuing in the interim role while the audit is conducted.

White was cited by a Baltimore County School System ethics commission for errors in filing financial disclosure forms. The panel indicated White failed to disclose income earned through part-time consulting work.

Baltimore County School Board hired accounting firm UHY from the agency’s Columbia offices this week. UHY is tasked with conducting an audit covering the period from January 2012 through December 2017. The audit will examine the system’s overall fiscal health and compliance with laws and regulations.

“This is an act of patience and prudence to make sure we’re getting the right person in place,” Phillips said.

Philips is looking forward to calmer days ahead as people have an opportunity to understand the State Board is not seeking to usurp local control.

“No state board member is for state control over your local district,” Phillips said. “Local autonomy is important and we all feel that way. Ultimately, the decision was up to Dr. Salmon, but in this instance, I would agree with her assessment of the situation.”

“I’m hoping people will calm down and let these things play out,” Phillips said. “ We look forward to reviewing the findings of the audit.”

“This is not an overreach as some have stated; this is common sense,” said Phillips.
Phillips said Salmon and the State Board welcome White’s continued service as interim for now. “We’re waiting on the County Board to resubmit and extend the interim position for one year.”

“The next move is on them,” Phillips said.