Several local delegates, including Robin Grammer and Bob Long (R-6) and Rick Impallaria and Pat McDonough (R-7) sent two letters to the Baltimore County Board of Education last week opposing the appointment of BCPS Interim Superintendent Verletta White to a permanent position.
“Based on our interactions with Ms. White over the past eight weeks, there has been a lack of response to our concerns and questions about issues in BCPS,” the letters read. “It is disappointing that the Interim Superintendent has neglected to maintain an open channel of communication. As the Superintendent, we expect timely responses to any questions and concerns that we, or our constituents, may have about BCPS schools.”
White was acting as the chief academic officer of BCPS when she was appointed unanimously by the Board of Education as interim superintendent in May of 2017, following the abrupt resignation of current superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance that April.
She came under scrutiny early in her term when allegations surfaced about her violating financial disclosure rules by not reporting outside payments she received for four years worth of consulting work done for Chicago’s Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI).
She was determined to be in violation by an ethics panel of two of the six allegations. She later reached an agreement with the school board that she would amend the forms and refrain from seeking outside employment while superintendent and the case was closed.
However, the delegates said these violations have increased a sense of distrust within the community. Along with this Grammer criticized her for a lack of transparency and answers when the County Delegation made continuous inquiries to her office.
“Specifically, the delegation is concerned about recent examples of students having both real and mock firearms in local Baltimore County Public Schools. The communication that we have received completely redacts information about these issues. Ms. White is obfuscating the original intent of privacy guidelines in order to justify failing to report on these numbers,” said Grammer. “With the timeliness and severity of our school safety issues, to even think that redacting information about guns in schools is infuriating.”
He added that Del. Szeliga presented the idea of the letter and he “felt it was his duty to sign on”.
When asked for additional comments, Long said, “At this point, I think I can sum up by saying that we’ve simply lost confidence in the current leadership of BCPS and we need to keep looking for a new superintendent. We need a fresh start.”
Long and Grammer’s signatures were joined with those of Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) and Del. Chris West (R-42).
“Parents have contacted me with concerns about school safety and a lack of follow through with student conduct problems,” said Delegate Szeliga. “But, repeated questions to BCPS have gone either unanswered or inefficiently answered. BCPS needs leadership that is responsive to stakeholders, parents, and students.
The letter from McDonough and Impallaria made reference that come November, the first ever elected school board will be taking office, along with a new County Council and County Executive. It stated, “It would be a mistake for a lame-duck School Board to choose a Superintendent.” They added that there wasn’t an urgency to find a replacement for White since the next school year doesn’t start until September.
White’s one-year term began in July 2017.
Impallaria said that White’s actions since taking office “demonstrates lack of transparency and willingness to share information with Baltimore County Delegation in a timely and frank manner”.
In March, parents, students, teachers and other BCPS stakeholders gathered for a public forum to discuss what they believed qualities the next superintendent should possess. Although the meeting with not about the current administration, questions and concerns about White took the stage. The audience and speakers seemed split.
Also in March, Dance, White’s predecessor, pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for failing to report almost $147,000 worth of outside income during his time as county superintendent.
“We are surprised and saddened to hear about the charges against former superintendent Dallas Dance. It is important to note, there are no accusations of wrongdoing by the current administration or me. I have full confidence in the integrity of our staff and organization as a whole. We will stay focused and continue to work diligently to provide the best education possible for our more than 113,000 students,” said White in a statement following the indictment.