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State's top education official declines again to approve White as Baltimore County superintendent

The state's top education official has once again declined to approve the Baltimore County school board's appointment of Verletta White as permanent superintendent.
The state's top education official has once again declined to approve the Baltimore County school board's appointment of Verletta White as permanent superintendent. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland’s top public education official once again declined to approve the Baltimore County school board’s appointment of Verletta White as permanent superintendent.

State schools Superintendent Karen Salmons, in a letter sent Thursday to county school board Chairman Edward J. Gilliss, said she appreciated “the Board’s explanations and advocacy for Ms. White’s appointment.”

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“Yet, my reservations remain,” she wrote.

The county school board, in an 8-4 vote in April, offered White a four-year contract that was set to begin July 1. She is currently serving as interim superintendent, with her term ending in a month.

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Salmon declined to approve her appointment earlier this month, citing White’s recent ethics violations and the school system’s failure to conduct an audit of the way it awards contracts.

The county school board then decided to ask Salmon to reconsider her decision. And Thursday’s letter came back with the same answer.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Verletta White said that superintendent Karen Salmon had told her the ethics review panel’s findings are cause for “concern.”

“Personally I am disappointed with the state superintendent’s decision. I believe Mrs. White is the right person for the right job at the right time,” Gilliss said in a statement.

Salmon did say she would approve White as an interim superintendent for another year, but she added that she would “strongly urge the board to conduct a full and fair search for a permanent superintendent thereafter.”

A county school board ethics panel found that White had violated two ethics rules when she did part time consulting work for a company that represents education technology companies and failed to report it on her financial disclosure forms.

White has pledged to no longer do any consulting work and has since amended her forms.

Salmon has said she was concerned about the ethics violations and the fact that a complete audit of the school system’s contracts and finances had not been started.

The conviction and sentencing of former Superintendent Dallas Dance on four counts of perjury for lying on his financial disclosure forms had brought calls from politicians and the public for a complete audit.

The board’s decision to appoint White to the permanent post has drawn strong reactions on both sides. After the board’s vote in April, some members who had voted against White began a campaign to encourage the public to write letters to Salmon, urging her not to approve White as superintendent.

But, last week, 40 Baltimore County principals went to the state school board meeting to express their support for White.

Almost immediately after the Baltimore County School Board voted 8-4 to hire Verletta White as superintendent, dissenting members ignited a grassroots lobbying effort to ask the state schools superintendent to block the appointment.

County school board member Julie Henn said Thursday night she was happy with Salmon’s decision.

“I am pleased with Dr. Salmon’s decision and agree with her reservations about approving Ms. White as permanent superintendent and have felt strongly that the board needs to conduct a full and fair search,” Henn said.

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In Maryland, the state superintendent must approve the local superintendents. However, no state superintendent in recent memory has rejected a local board’s choice unless the candidate didn’t have the proper academic credentials.

Gilliss said he would raise the issue with the board at its June 12 meeting, “and the board will act at that time.”

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