Permanent Superintendent and Budget on Baltimore County School Board's Plate
The Baltimore County School Board is about to try again to find a permanent school superintendent.
This comes as the interim superintendent, Verletta White, said she still wants the job.
School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Causey said she expects the school board to get briefed on a new superintendent search at its meeting next week, on January 22.
“We have an ad hoc committee that’s doing its work, and when it has an opportunity to update the full board, then we’ll have an opportunity to update the public after that,” Causey said.
The search for a superintendent has gone down a torturous path.
Dallas Dance, the former superintendent, resigned suddenly in April of 2017, then pled guilty last March to perjury charges for lying about money he received as a consultant.
White took over as interim superintendent and a majority of the board voted to give her the gig permanently. There was a groundswell of support for her within the school system.
But White’s opponents objected because of her ties to Dance and took their case to the state school superintendent, who deep-sixed the board’s vote, leaving White the interim superintendent.
The November election reshuffled the deck. There are nine new members on the 12 member board. But the three members still around from the previous board, including Causey, opposed White’s appointment last year. No matter, White said she still wants the permanent appointment. White praises board members as being advocates for public education.
“So far, we have a really good partnership and I’m looking forward to it and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” White said.
This comes as White is submitting her proposed budget for the coming school year. A key change is her decision to back off a bit on the STAT program to put computers in the hands of all students. In kindergarten through second grade, there would be a one-device-for- two-children ratio. And elementary school students would switch to less expensive chrome books. White said that would save around $15 million over three years, which could then be spent on other things. For instance, her budget calls for hiring 87 new special educators.
“We’re seeing more students who are diagnosed with autism,” White said. “We have more students diagnosed with developmental delays and more students who are being diagnosed with multiple disabilities.”
But there is a political angle here as well. County Executive Johnny Olszewski has said he wants to look for ways to save money by possibly rolling back the schools’ technology initiative. And White said she heard it from others as well, when she held community meetings throughout the county.
White said, “Everybody wanted us to take a look at how we could preserve our instructional program, but how we could be fiscally responsible and how we can manage our program.”
White has heard frequently that STAT has led to little kids spending too much time in front of screens. She and the school board heard it again earlier this week from Cynthia Boyd with the PTA Council of Baltimore County, during a public hearing on the budget.
Boyd said, “Overall, we are happy that more thought has been given to developmentally appropriate practices including decreasing screen time, increasing play, focusing on foundational skills and creating access to text books.”
The school board will hold a work session on the budget next week. That’s the same meeting where it’s expected to get an update on the superintendent search. Chairwoman Causey described the new board as a dynamic group of professionals with diverse experiences.
Causey said, “It’s very exciting actually to engage with all the board members as they dive into the work of the school board.”
A deep dive of passing a budget while trying to settle the superintendent issue once and for all.