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Baltimore County Council members want a nationwide search for school superintendent

Darryl L. Williams was appointed superintendent of schools for Baltimore County Public Schools on May 21, 2019, by the Board of Education. Williams announced on January 23rd that he would not seek a second term when his contract expires on June 30. (photo by John Lee/WYPR)
John Lee
Darryl Williams is the superintendent for Baltimore County Schools Credit: John Lee

Baltimore County Public Schools may have a new leader next year if a big push by county council members is successful.

Saying “we have reached a crisis point where there is no alternative,” five of the seven members of the Baltimore County Council are advocating for a nationwide search for a school superintendent.

In a letter sent Tuesday to School Board Chairwoman Julie Henn, the council members said they want the search to happen before the board considers renewing the contract of School Superintendent Darryl Williams, which expires June 30 next year.

Republican Council members, Wade Kach, Todd Crandell and David Marks, and Democrats Tom Quirk and Cathy Bevins wrote in the letter that for several years the school system “has been dealing with low teacher and student morale, disciplinary problems in schools and on buses, high employee turnover rates, and overall declining student achievement.”

“We’ve lost confidence in the superintendent and in the system itself,” Councilman Kach said in an interview.

Superintendent Williams “is the face of the entire organization and the failures and shortcomings in the system are his responsibility,” according to the letter.

Council members have most recently complained to school officials about buses which are frequently late to pick up children in the morning.

“The buses were the final straw,” said Councilman Quirk.

Charles Herndon, a spokesman for the county schools, wrote in a text message to WYPR, “We will have no response to the council letter at this time.”

During an April interview with WYPR, Williams said he wanted his four-year contract renewed.

“I want to continue to do the work,” Williams said.

The school board is responsible for conducting a search for and hiring the superintendent.

In a text, Board Chair Julie Henn wrote, “The board does not comment on personnel matters.”

The County Council plays no role in the selection of the superintendent. The council members who signed the letter are hoping it will put pressure on the school board to launch a search.

“If the board of education goes through that process and they ultimately decide that Dr. Williams is the person to lead the charge for the next four years, well that’s their prerogative,” Quirk said.

The council also has little say about how the school system spends the more than $2 billion it approves each year for education spending.

Council members say they are frustrated because Williams and his administration are not answering their questions about how the money is spent.

“The Council I don’t think is a combative body,” Councilman Crandell said. “I don’t think that we had ever anticipated sending a letter quite like this. But we’ve reached a point where we’re not getting answers.”

Two Council members, Democrats Julian Jones and Izzy Patoka did not sign the letter.

“Over the past few years we have been far from normal,” said Patoka. “I thought for Dr. Williams that we need to give him a chance to gain some continuity under a more normal post-pandemic world.

“There were so many stops and starts over the past few years, it was unchartered territory for all of us.”

A spokeswoman for County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he had not yet seen the letter so was not in a position to comment.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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