Baltimore County school board will seek clarification on superintendent hiring authority

In a request that could have far-reaching consequences in how local superintendents are chosen, the Baltimore County school board is asking the state to clarify whether the state school superintendent has the legal authority to intervene in a local board’s selection.

The request comes after Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon blocked the appointment of Verletta White, the county board’s pick to get the superintendent’s job as of July 1, 2018. White was named interim superintendent instead, for the second year in a row.


In one of its last meetings before a newly elected board is seated in December, the county school board voted to ask the Maryland State School Board to interpret the legal language in state law. Board member Nick Stewart said the current board members believes Salmon acted unlawfully, but they are not trying to reverse the decision and put White in the job permanently. Instead, he said, they believe local school boards need legal clarity.

“For legal reasons we are taking the position that we want to challenge this from a go forward position,” he said.


State officials declined to comment on the county school board’s request, which was sent Friday.

Traditionally, the state superintendent has rubber-stamped a local school board’s choice of whom it wanted to hire as long as the candidate had certain educational qualifications. State law specifies that local superintendents have to have experience teaching and leading schools, as well as have completed graduate degrees.

White, who was chosen in the spring by the board to become the county’s next superintendent, had all the educational qualifications but didn’t get Salmon’s approval. White had been a teacher, principal and chief academic officer in the Baltimore County schools before being named interim in July 2017.

Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon has refused to approve Verletta White for the second time.

At the time, Salmon said she had questions about White’s violation of an ethics rule as well as the failure of the board to start an audit of its contracts after the conviction of former school superintendent Dallas Dance in February. White had failed to say on her financial disclosure reports that she had done part-time work for a company.

At the root of the issue, members said, is whether a local school board can pick its superintendent.

“We should not prostrate ourselves at the feet of the state superintendent and hope and pray that our choice meets her particular whims,” said Nick Stewart, a board member. “We know our system; we know our people; we know our needs; we know our kids.”

Stewart said the board is asking that the state board interpret the state law and conclude that the state superintendent is limited to verifying that the candidate selected by a local board meets the minimum qualifications of the law.

Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon made news Wednesday after she declined to approve Verletta White as Baltimore County’s permanent school superintendent, citing White’s recent ethic violations.

The four school board members who have fought many of White’s proposals voted against asking the state board for the clarification.

School board member Kathleen Causey said it was “an ineffective use of our system resources” to ask for the clarification from the state board. School board member Ann Miller said she believed the rest of the board was asking for a certain outcome.

But other members argued that local school boards had the right to know how much authority they had in selecting their superintendents.

“This carries far-reaching consequences,” Stewart said, adding that several county boards will be picking new superintendents this winter and spring. If the state board decides the state superintendent does have expansive authority in deciding the local superintendents, Stewart believes that the legislature should intervene and give the authority back to local boards.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun