Some Baltimore County school board members expressed shock and dismay that state superintendent Karen Salmon has blocked their decision to permanently hire Verletta White as the county’s schools chief. And they said they could ask Salmon to reconsider her position.
Salmon announced Wednesday that she has refused to allow the board to permanently hire White at this time. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, School Board Chair Edward Gilliss said the board will consider its options in a closed door session before its regular meeting Tuesday. He said those options would include asking Salmon to reverse her decision.
Gilliss said he received Salmon’s letter on Tuesday, and was surprised by the decision. He said he had not spoken to Salmon about the matter.
In her letter to the board, Salmon suggested two options. She said she would approve White to continue as interim superintendent for another year, but she said she also would be open to the board naming someone else to be interim chief.
“I think another option is to ask Dr. Salmon to reconsider,” said Gilliss.
“Two weeks ago, the board expressed its confidence in Mrs. White and voted to appoint her. I believe she has proven her mettle, that she is locally rooted, fully invested and broadly respected,” Gilliss said.
Salmon said she was “pausing” the process and not approving White as the permanent superintendent because she has concerns about White’s ethics violations.
Another board member, David Uhlfelder, expressed anger at Salmon’s decision. “I am upset that she thinks she knows better what is good for Baltimore County than I do,” he said. Uhlfelder said he would support making White an interim for a second year.
“We are kind of caught in a no win, no superintendent situation,” Uhlfelder said.
Under Maryland law, school superintendent contracts must run from July 1 to June 30 and must be four years, unless an interim is appointed for a year. Historically, state superintendents have not approved two-year interim positions. It is rare for a state superintendent to refuse to approve a local board’s choice for a new superintendent.
White, the county school system’s former chief academic officer, was appointed last spring after Dallas Dance turned in his resignation. He pleaded guilty to four counts of perjury for failing to disclose $147,000 in consulting work he did during his five-year tenure. He began serving a six-month sentence last Friday.
Jasmine Shriver, a long time education advocate in the county, said she had written Salmon repeatedly asking her not to approve White. Shriver said she objected to White “because her integrity was questionable.” She also wondered if the board would complete an audit of school system contracts.
Numerous county and state legislators called for an audit after Dance was indicted. Gilliss said the board has sent out request for proposals seeking bids from firms to do a comprehensive audit.