State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that she is blocking the appointment of interim BCPS superintendent Verletta White due to concerns over White’s past ethics violations.
In a letter sent to Edward Gilliss Esq., the chair of the Baltimore County Board of Education, Salmon said that the ethics violations related to White’s failure to report outside payments from Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) for four years while acting as a school official have caused her to stall the appointment.
“The State Superintendent has stated that she believes that the ethics review panel’s findings ‘cause her concern’, and has indicated that the lack of an audit is another matter that prevents her from providing her approval ‘at this time,’” said White in a statement released on Wednesday, May 2.
The letter also stated that Salmon will be advocating for an expanded audit of the BCPS procurement process.
White added that she believes that an audit would show that the BCPS procurement practices are “above reproach” and that the allegations raised concerning her character have been based on “speculation and not fact.”
To combat these accusations, White released the full text of the ethics review panel that found two of the six allegations of ethics violations against her had merit
“I have, from the outset of my appointment last year, expressed my desire to be appointed as permanent superintendent. That desire has not changed. As of December 2018, the local board of education will be, for the first time in Baltimore County’s history, both elected and appointed. This major shift in the school system’s leadership is another reason for my desire to remain as superintendent to provide stability and continuity,” White concluded.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Board of Education of Baltimore County voted 8-4 to make White the permanent superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools.
Salmon said that if the Board requested it, she would approve a second interim term for White or somebody else. She said this would give the school system enough to conduct a complete audit and release the information before deciding who will take over the permanent position.
Throughout the process, many opponents of White have cited her similarities with ex-BCPS superintendent S. Dallas Dance.
In March, Dance pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for failing to report almost $147,000 worth of outside income during his time as county superintendent. In April, he was sentenced to five years behind bars with all but six months suspended alone with two years of probation and 700 hours of community service.
“We need to get away from the problems that were attached to Dallas Dance,” said Del. Rick Impallaria (R-7). After the school board voted in White’s favor, Impallaria sent out a release urging constituents to message Salmon about blocking the appointment. He said this garnered a lot of responses and input and this backlash most likely contributed to Salmon’s final decision.
“We need to wait until new school board is elected and let them start a new vetting process, start the search all over again. We need to leave it up to them and let this be their first opportunity to jump right in and do their job,” said Impallaria on the future of the superintendent position.
Del. Bob Long (R-6) told the Avenue News last month 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.”
Another outspoken legislator against White was Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) who signed a letter to the Board of Education discouraging the appointment of White, criticizing her “lack of response to our concerns and questions about issues in BCPS.”
“Dr. Salmon stood on the side of the citizens of Baltimore County”, said Szeliga in a statement. “She has given them the ability to plot a new course for Baltimore County Schools in this year’s historic election. I hope the Baltimore County School Board will follow her lead and make a temporary selection, be it Verletta White or someone else.”
White, however, has a supporter in Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz, who is running for the gubernatorial position Governor Larry Hogan currently holds, lambasted the decision and said Hogan influenced Salmon’s final decision.
“Larry Hogan has a troubling pattern of playing politics at the expense of children’s education. He’s created turmoil over the school calendar and the school construction process. Now he directs his schools chief to take the unprecedented step to overturn the judgment of the local school board who knows Superintendent White best. He’s shameless!” he stated in a press release.
Hogan’s administration has denied this claim.
White’s four-year term was set to begin on July 1, 2018.