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Baltimore County school board taps Julie Henn, Cheryl Pasteur for chair, vice chair

Baltimore County school board selected new leadership Tuesday, tapping Julie Henn to serve as chair and Cheryl Pasteur as vice chair.

The 12-person board voted 7-5 for Henn, who was nominated by Lily Rowe and has served as vice chair for the past few years. The chair position was held this year by Makeda Scott, who was also nominated by student member Christian Thomas for the position Tuesday but was not considered further after Henn received the seven votes needed to win.

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The 12-person board voted 7-5 for Henn (pictured in 2020), who was nominated by Lily Rowe and has served as vice chair for the past few years.
The 12-person board voted 7-5 for Henn (pictured in 2020), who was nominated by Lily Rowe and has served as vice chair for the past few years. (HANDOUT)

Thomas, Scott and members Moalie Jose, John Offerman and Cheryl Pasteur cast the dissenting votes. The board then voted unanimously for Pasteur, who was nominated for vice chair by Offerman.

Board members did not discuss the nominations for either position before taking the votes.

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Baltimore County school board’s leadership positions are more or less ceremonial, but can signal the group’s priorities for the coming year. The chair is the spokesperson for the board, presiding over meetings and appointing colleagues to serve on committees.

After the board transitioned to a hybrid model of elected and appointed members in 2018, the group has struggled to overcome deep divisions and has been criticized by community members for the conflict.

The following year, the board failed to elect new leadership when Pasteur received six votes for the chair, which was not enough to pass. As a result, the incumbent chairwoman Kathleen Causey retained the position despite receiving five votes.

In 2020, the board appointed Scott as the first Black woman to serve in the position, officials said at the time. She led the board during a tumultuous year that was complicated by shuttered schools, a ransomware attack on system servers and intense pressure from the public concerning pandemic response.

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Scott asked law enforcement in April to look into social media activities that she said constituted “bullying, intimidation, racism and a safety risk” to herself and several board members. Baltimore County police investigated the matter and determined there was a low threat risk to board members.

Following the vote, Henn and Pasteur stepped into their new roles for the remainder of the meeting.

Baltimore County school board then voted unanimously to approve $1,000 bonuses for system employees in January.

The bonus will be awarded to all full-time, part-time and temporary employees, substitutes, contractual employees and others to encourage job retention during a difficult year, officials said.

Officials plan to pay for the $21 million cost for the bonuses using federal funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, pending approval by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Superintendent Darryl Williams, who is excluded from the bonus, said in a statement “it is important that we show our staff how much we appreciate them and their commitment to Baltimore County.”

“It is our hope that the steps we are taking today as a system will help us provide greater support and recognition for our employees and build a stronger Team BCPS,” Williams said.

The bonus marks the latest effort by Baltimore County school system to reward employees at a time when they are facing staffing shortages and heavy workloads due to the pandemic. Last month, the system added one day to the Thanksgiving holiday to give employees a longer break. And the year-end bonus comes in addition to the previously approved bonuses for bus drivers, who are also facing shortages.

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