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Supporters of embattled Baltimore County schools chief speak up

Dr. Darryl L. Williams has served as Superintendent of Schools for Baltimore County Public Schools since his May 2019 appointment by the Board of Education. (photo courtesy BCoPS)
Darryl Williams is the Baltimore County School Superintendent

Baltimore County’s School Superintendent, under fire from a majority of the members of the County Council over what they see is his lack of leadership, was defended by supporters during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

State Sen. Charles Sydnor told the board that Superintendent Darryl Williams is being blamed for issues that are affecting school systems across Maryland.

“The public would love to understand where he uniquely fell short, and I don’t think the council nor the people who have been trying to make this case have made the case,” said Sydnor, who represents Baltimore County in District 44 as a Democrat. “And unless you do, Dr. Williams will have my support.”

In a letter last week to School Board Chair Julie Henn, Republican Council members Wade Kach, Todd Crandell and David Marks, alongside Democrats Tom Quirk and Cathy Bevins wrote 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.”

They want the school board to launch a nationwide search for a possible replacement for Williams, claiming the schools are in crisis.

Former school board member Marisol Johnson said the council members have an “ax to grind” and that Williams has faced difficult issues during his tenure.

“He navigated the system through the COVID shutdown, mask mandates and recalls, teacher turnover and shortage, a very costly cyber attack,” Johnson said.

Omer Reshid, a former student member of the school board, said he’s never met someone as eager and happy to serve all of the county’s students as Williams.

“Today more than ever our students and staff need stability,” Reshid said. “And we’re just starting to see some of that right now.”

Andy Higgins pointed out to the school board that most of them will not be returning following elections and appointments later this year.

“The notion of changing superintendents along with the majority of the school board, and somehow that is going to benefit our children, is offensive,” Higgins said.

Jeannette Young, the president of the Education Support Professionals of Baltimore County, the union that represents health assistants, office workers and others, thanked Williams for taking time with those employees.

“You are the first superintendent who has shown a genuine interest in the working conditions of anyone other than the classroom teacher,” Young said.

The start of Tuesday night’s meeting was delayed by more than 90 minutes as the school board was in closed session. It was not disclosed whether a discussion of Williams’ future was part of that extended closed session.

Meanwhile, Williams requested a meeting with council members, which is happening on Thursday.

According to Council Chairman Julian Jones, Williams wants to meet with the council following the letter from the five council members last week.

“He offered to give us a briefing on BCPS efforts to deal with the transportation issue and other items,” Jones said in a text.

Council members have been complaining that school buses have been frequently late.

“The buses were the final straw,” said Councilman Quirk in an interview last week.

On Saturday, Williams released his own letter, defending his record and charging that council members are conducting “counterproductive political dialogue” during an election year.

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.

Williams’ contract expires June 30 next year.

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