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Baltimore County school board expected to discuss next steps in superintendent search Tuesday

Rebuked in its selection of Verletta White to be the next schools chief, the Baltimore County school board may decide Tuesday night whether it will push back against the state superintendent's decision or move on and name its next interim leader.

Several board members said Monday they would like to ask State Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon to rescind her decision, saying they don't believe Salmon had information about the status of an audit the school system intends to begin soon, or information about White's ethics violations that gave Salmon pause in approving her to a four-year term beginning July 1.

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Nick Stewart, the vice-chair of the board, said he is in favor of writing Salmon a letter and attaching an ethics panel report that detailed White's violations, as well as documents that show the school system will hire a firm to do a comprehensive audit of its contracts.

Board member Stephen Verch said the letter should be "sincere and thoughtful" and include documents that show how the board has attempted to expand the audit several times.

Board chair Edward Gilliss suggested the same approach as Stewart last week.

Salmon made an unprecedented decision last week not to approve the county school board's choice as superintendent. State superintendents have blocked some school board choices, but only in cases when the candidate did not meet the legal qualifications needed for the job.

A majority of the Baltimore County school board — eight of the 12 members — voted to appoint White. Three of the dissenting board members — Julie Henn, Ann Miller and Kathleen Causey — lobbied the state school chief to get her to block White's appointment.

The board could decide Monday to give White another year as interim superintendent, a choice Salmon has said she would support.

Salmon, in her letter to the county board rejecting their choice, suggested there was still a path for White to get her approval to become the permanent superintendent in a year, but she said she wanted to see the results of an audit that numerous legislators and state officials have called for.

That is a path board member Emory Young would support, but he said he would expect Salmon to communicate better with the board than she has so far . For two weeks before the board voted to hire White, Young said it was widely reported the vote would be taken and yet Salmon did not reach out to the board to signal her disapproval.

"There were two weeks where if she had this level of concern she could have approached us," Young said. "We will... be on Dr. Salmon to have open and honest discussions with us."

Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said last week Salmon declined to be interviewed and would not be commenting on the issue.

The school board has sent out a request for proposals for a firm to conduct an audit of the school system's contracts starting from the tenure of former Superintendent Dallas Dance. Dance is now serving six months in prison for his conviction earlier this year on four counts of perjury for failing to disclose $147,000 in consulting work on financial disclosure reports.

"The results of the audit will provide critical facts for me to consider in deciding whether to approve Dr. White as permanent superintendent," Salmon wrote in her letter to the board.

White also failed to disclose about $12,000 she earned for consulting work. But while Dance created false documents and lied to the ethics board about his consulting work, White told the ethics board she would amend her financial disclosure reports and pledged to do no more consulting work while serving as superintendent.

Young said he continues to support White because he likes her focus on literacy, which he sees as going back to the basics.

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"I like where I see her trying to steer the system," Young said.

The board's discussion will take place behind closed doors because it is a personnel issue, but the matter is on the agenda as an item to be acted on during its public meeting.

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